Sunday, June 27, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Hit ‘N’ Hot Music: Cat. # H’N’H CDS 372
Released March 2006
1. Who Is Watching (Mischa Daniëls Radio Edit) (3:46)
2. Who Is Watching (Mischa Daniëls Club Mix) (7:28)
3. Who Is Watching (DJ Remy & Roland Klinkenberg Remix) (7:54)
4. Who Is Watching (Oliver Moldan Remix) (7:48)
5. Who Is Watching (Tone Depth Remix) (11:18)
What else is there to say? Aside from the Tone Depth remix, no one really remembers this one. Erm, sorry I'm being brief here. Rough week...)
IN BRIEF: By the book remixing.
Y’know, as I sit down here at my lappy, set to type up my review, it occurs to me this is only the second release from this prominent trance personality to grace our archives (the first being A State Of Trance: 2004). Considering the two other DJs in the top three of DJ Mag’s annual poll get a fair deal of coverage, this might seem a bit odd, especially since AvB’s output this past year has been quite steady with a couple DJ compilations and an artist album.
Of course, who ever remembers consistent bronze medalists? Heh.
So, here is the most recent remix package of yet another track from Armin’s album Shivers, this one being the Nadia Ali featuring Who Is Watching. The original could kindly be described as... unassuming. On an album which did not have glowing praise showered upon it by many, this track was one of the apparent glaring problems some seemed to have with it. Consisting of nothing more than guitar-strums, pads, light percussion, and Nadia’s vocals, Who Is Watching came across as lightweight adult contemporary compilation fodder. It was a far cry from the sort of music Armin’s fans had come to expect from him.
But whether his fans enjoyed it or not seems to be irrelevant. Who Is Watching is the one that’s been given the remix treatment, so let’s see how the remixers treat it.
First up is Mischa Daniëls, a relative new house producer out of the lands that are Dutch. He doesn’t do much altering, making use of the original elements while adding some housey beats, bobbly bass, and an added riff playing off the main melody during the peaks. It isn’t terribly innovative, but would probably fit snuggly in a typical Hed Kandi compilation (or radiowaves, as the Radio Edit indicates).
DJ Remy and Roland Klinkenberg (though uncredited here for some reason), both stalwarts in the Dutch scene, provide a mellow progressive re-rub. To be honest, this is unexciting stuff. Sound effects and washes drone along for half the track, Nadia’s vocals every so often cropping up with plenty of trailing echo effects. Midway through, you get a harmonic bass drop to add some excitement at the peak of a minor build. It’s effective in the sense that everything’s been so monotonous leading up to it, any change of tone is welcome. Overall though, their remix would be best suited as an early warm-up track in a DJ set, and probably not much more.
German Oliver Moldan, fresh off releasing Second Session on the Armada sub-label Stoney Boy, does the house thing as well for his remix. It’s more groovy than Daniëls’ take, relying on additional guitars, a lightly distorted ‘rockin’ bassline (first one to call it electro gets a whuppin’), and builds to promote energy. While certainly playing to all the elements house music’s been filled with lately, it isn’t all that amazing either, merely making use of current, trendy sounds to complement Armin’s original work. In two words, perfectly adequate.
Finally, we have a whopping eleven minute remix from Tony Papadopoulos, under his Tone Depth alias here but more commonly known as The Greek. The first half of this track is pure Tony: warm pad work, pulsing synths, tranquil guitars, and mellow rhythms, all combining to conjure up Mediterranean vistas at dusk. It’s practically a separate song in itself, but then he seems to remember this is actually a remix, so, around the six minute mark, he breaks the song down, brings in the original’s elements under reverb effects, and essentially does what DJ Remy and Klinkenberg did with their remix, only some of the pulsing synths and basic percussion retained (and two minutes worth of lead-out). Yeah, the second half doesn’t live up to the first half’s atmosphere because Tony’s strengths are stilted by having to let Nadia’s vocals carry the remainder of the track. As such, it sounds like he’s just going through the prog motions.
In fact, that could be said for all of these remixes. I don’t know if the remixers just felt uninspired by Armin’s original, or if they were merely requested to make their re-rubs suitable for potential club scenes without losing much in the process. Whatever the case, all of these remixes of Who Is Watching are perfectly decent for supplying DJs with danceable versions but nothing more. Only the Tone Depth Remix sees any kind of innovation, and only for the sections when Armin’s track isn’t really a part of it. Why am I not surprised?
Written by Sykonee. Originally published 2006 for TranceCritic.com. © All rights reserved.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
1. Groove Armada - At The River
From the album Vertigo.
Their first single, for the record. It took a bit of a roundabout route to be re-released with their sophomore album above, riding the coattails of the big-beat phenomenon. It’s very laid back and sampledelic, a perfect summertime record, hinting at the potential everyone saw in the duo before the backlash of endlessly hearing I See You Baby soured everyone’s attitude towards them. At least, that’s what happened over on this side of the pond. I think they’re still big stars in the UK, and lord knows the tune continues to get recycled on “Best Chill-Out Ever” compilations from Ministry Of Sound.
2. The Orb - More Gills Less Fishcakes
From the album Pomme Fritz.
This was around the time Dr. Patterson was getting more experimental than many were willing to indulge. More of an EP of the title track, More Gills is one of the noodly sonic masturbation cuts, where dub tricks, tape splicing, and sample pieces cut in and out. Some semblance of a proper tune emerges in the middle, but it’s a garbled mess for the most part. I can’t think of enough weed to make this a worthwhile listen.
3. Subreachers - Memories Of Better Times
From the compilation Echodub Loves, Vol. 2.
I just reviewed this last week! Do I really have to talk about it again so soon? Um, well, the piano tones are still pleasant enough.
4. Astral Projection - Liquid Sun
From a personal compilation.
I think Astral Projection were one of the first groups to realize giving away free MP3s was very beneficial to one’s career. Way back in the MP3.com days, you could download a whole bunch of their tunes at no cost, and without having to go through dodgy back channels like Napster or Audio Galaxy. Or, wait… did I get their tunes off Audio Galaxy after all? Man, that was so long ago, I can’t remember. I think it was MP3.com I found this. I’m pretty sure a lot of other folks did too, hence their dedicated fanbase all these years later. This? Ah, typical mid-90s soaring goa trance. Mint, if you’re into that stuff. I like it.
5. Banco de Gaia - Shanti (Red With White Spots Edit)
From the album Maya.
Wow, must be a psychedelic week, huh? This isn’t as good as the Black Mountain Mix, but still pretty cool if you like noodly, dubby, experimental stuff. The core elements are lovely as ever. You can definitely hear The Orb influences though, but then The Orb had influenced tons of ambient house and dub producers in the early 90s. Which I guess makes that group’s dive into experimental wank like the track above around the same time all the more understandable.
That was a tidy little Mini-Review, I must say. Nothing too out of the ordinary, thematically consistent… I could probably even make a mini-mix out of those tracks were I so inclined. Hm, it has been a while since I did a mixtape, now that I think about it…
Written by Sykonee, 2010. © All rights reserved.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Iboga Records: Cat. # IBOGACD38
Released February 28, 2006
1. Starter (8:28)
2. Dr. Feelgood (8:31)
3. Morning Blues (8:03)
4. Those Days (9:08)
5. Hyperdrive (8:21)
6. Truth (8:39)
7. Nobody’s Perfect (Remix) (9:00)
8. Desert Session (10:39)
9. Bonus: Schatsi - Radio Schatsi (Perfect Stranger Remix) (6:50)
Ugh. Probably one of the driest reviews I ever wrote, and that's saying something, considering the material I was writing a year before. I can't even read this today. Fortunately, the album itself has held up quite well. In fact, I think Iboga was never quite as good as they were at this point in their life, but mind you I haven't checked anything out from them in over a year now. Maybe it's about time I rectify that?)
IN BRIEF: Definitely not “that hippie shit.”
Having been impressed by Flowjob’s album, it raised my curiosity as to what else the growing progressive scene in the psy camps had to offer. After all, the underground buzz surrounding it had to be there for a reason; however, it seems there’s still very little exposure outside its core niche. Either these labels just don’t have the necessary promotional power to expose their material to major outlets, or the majors still regard it as “that hippie shit.”
Undaunted, I decided to explore it the expensive way: buying a smattering of material for myself to check out. Of this splurge, I naturally picked up another release from the label responsible for Flowjob’s release, Iboga Records; much of this buzz seems to be centred around their output anyways. As for why I chose this particular release by Perfect Stranger, it was merely a random choice; more fun that way (heh).
The man behind Perfect Stranger, Yuli Fershtat, has been in the psy scene for a while now, mostly producing full-on styled stuff as BLT. I can’t say I’ve heard any of that material but perhaps that’s a good thing. This way, I’m getting the good ol’ fresh perspective on Yuli’s new project without drawing from previous work for comparison.
As for his Perfect Stranger material, it would seem Yuli has done his homework on what constitutes the progressive sound. The tracks on Learning = Change are not to be confused with the twinkly stuff produced by Andy Moor or Markus Schulz. Nor is it all that similar to the older prog house and trance that was popular in the mid-90s. Rather, the closest comparison would be the brooding style John Digweed was playing out at the turn of the century, with some psy styling sprinkled in here and there. If you aren’t familiar with Digweed’s darker sound, it had the distinction of being very minimal, very groove-centric, and highly un-melodic. So, if you need your hooks readily apparent in your music, you may want to pass on this release.
The remaining question then, is from which angle should I approach Learning = Change: psy going prog, or prog going psy? The aptly titled opener, Starter, is as clear as any indication on what Yuli is aiming for. The track is as proggy as prog gets, with rhythmic layers, dubby effects, synthy washes, and other assorted sounds gradually building upon one another. A definite hook emerges around the four minute mark -a pulsing synth melody- but don’t expect it to carry Starter for the duration; it’s more of a tantalizing tease before heading back into the groove again to take us out. Still, Starter is a decent track to, um, start the album on.
Dr. Feelgood takes us into deeper pastures. Don’t expect this track to lead you by the hand. Most of the dubby sounds and groovy rhythms tend to remain unassuming as things play out, letting the listener discover the musical nuances themself. Of course, that’s the optimist’s stance. A pessimist would probably write Dr. Feelgood off as boring, droning wank. Being the cheery guy I am, I’ll go with the former. It’s still your call though.
Retaining this atmosphere is Morning Blues, but this track brings in grittier sound effects, dubby synth pulses, and female samples. The subtle melodies are also easier to pick out thanks to the sparseness of everything at work, but again they won’t leap out at you, nor build to a big climax.
Having gotten the mellow groovers out of the way, Yuli gets the prog party started with Those Days. The rhythms are more punctual, the bassline more driving, and the sounds a bit fiercer. This track also makes ample use of simple, looping hooks layering on top of each other, effectively drawing you into a rhythmic trance. To counter the menacing sounds used, a little twinkly hook peaks its head every so often. It all sounds good, right? Well, there’s just one problem: the rhythms aren’t as gripping as Those Days’ elements seem to indicate they should be. Consequently, the listener may lose interest when the hooks aren’t in action (which happens all too frequently in the second half).
Hyperdrive fixes this problem. By establishing the main hook -a looping, brooding synthesized little number- right from the get-go, the focus tends to shift towards Yuli’s use of rhythms. Always layered and evolving throughout the track, it also helps they are catchier, sucking you into their tribal dance. With all the cards laid out early, Hyperdrive doesn’t create a sense of anxious anticipation for a big payoff, thus allowing you to just enjoy the trip.
The same can be said for Truth. A plinky arpeggio is established early on; although not settling for simple loops this time out, Yuli manages to embellish it with various effects and complementary hooks while the rhythms work and build around it. The silky smooth production on this track adds a touch of class found in many a typical Renaissance release. Er... not that Perfect Stranger hasn’t been classy thus far, but the psy trappings have been lurking in most of these tracks, which can frighten your average prog head. Anyhow, moving on.
Yuli seems to have realized he’s at his strongest when letting the rhythms dictate the direction of his songs, so for his final two tracks, he does just that. Nobody’s Perfect makes wonderful use of building percussion and groovin’ basslines. Stuttery sounds and effects only add to the tribal energy to be had. The song is structured around a ‘double-build’, where all the elements will peak out halfway through, recede for a bit, and build back up to finish out. Very infectious.
Similarly, Desert Session lays the tribal feel on thicker, allowing the rhythms to worm and wind their way through a dizzying dance of percussion and bass. A collaboration with Wouter Thomassen (aka Zen Mechanics), you get an added element during these rhythmic builds which is irresistible: acid. Specifically, it is of the chunky, hollow sort, but is there to serve the rhythms as needed. And serve them well they do indeed.
There’s also a bonus track here, a remix Yuli did for Yoni Oshrat, otherwise known as Schatsi. It certainly has a different feel to it than the rest of this album, in that Radio Schatsi is, dare I say it, old school trance. In fact, I’ll be so bold as to say it kind of reminds me of some DJ Dag material: stuttery synths, simple reverb on the percussion, ‘Speak ‘N’ Spell’ samples, etc. While not the most riveting example of this sound, it is still quality, and a worthy ‘add-on’ to max out the CD’s space.
The main attraction on this album is still Yuli’s own material though, and he has crafted a lovely little prog album here. With each track easily segueing into the next, the rhythmic flow of Learning = Change is on a constant climb, with Desert Session the definite peak of it. However, an apparent lack of accessible hooks does make this album a bit difficult to dive into without dedicated attention payed to it. Perhaps frustratingly, some of the synthy pulses that peak their head every so often hint at the potential for some killer hooks had Yuli decided to go that route.
Still, if this nitpick isn’t much of a concern to you, then Learning = Change will serve prog heads just fine. The underground continues to thrive.
Written by Sykonee. Originally published 2006 for TranceCritic.com. © All rights reserved.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
1. Hypertrophy - Just Come Back To Me (Porn Kings X-Plicit Club Cut)
From the mixed compilation Trance Trippin’.
Oh man, Hypertrophy. Did these guys ever have a bunch of hits back in the day, eh? Um, actually, they only had a couple before disappearing, but they were classics for the burgeoning ‘club trance’ scene of the late 90s. Their shtick was the ‘bells riff’, something that was quite clearly style-bitten from Quench’s Dreams. Still, what they did with it was remains memorable, in that early epic-trance sort of way. This version is from a compilation that featured a whole bunch of trance of the time, going from floaty vocal stuff to hard acid psy. Yes, it can be done.
2. Willie Nelson - Georgia On My Mind
From the album Collections.
Yeah, Sony Music recycles these “greatest hits” collections every so often on the super cheap. I decided to pick a few up one time, as a decent primer on all these classic musicians should I ever dig further. Can’t say I’ve done so when it comes to Willie Nelson. There isn’t much more I can say about this song though. It’s a country ballad, so it’s charming, whimsical …there’s a harmonica. Seriously, you’ve heard this song a million times, even if not this particular one.
3. Daft Punk - Robot Rock/Oh Yeah
From the album Alive 2007.
Man, I wish I could have seen that pyramid live. As it stands though, I’ll just have to settle for enjoying that awesome bass resonance in the Sennheiser headphones. Mmm…..
4. Gas - Earthloop
From the album Gas 0095.
Hm, well not exactly obscure-obscure, but still quite an unknown tune. This is more of an ambient interlude on the album than a proper track, but for an album that was filled with such wibbling, this actually holds up quite nicely. Earthloop even hints at becoming a proper tune before it ends, which is a shame. Still, for what lasts, it remains pleasant enough; a definite look-see for ambient techno fans.
5. Method Man - Step By Step
From the album Tical 2000: Judgement Day.
Ol’ Cliff could rap about any damn thing and make it sound impossibly cool. Here, however, it’s simple “I’m da’ man” bravado over a laid-back Erick Sermon beat. You can’t dismiss it, yet you’re not exactly riveted by it either, which has been a major complaint of Meth’s solo projects over the years. Perfect fodder for your spliffed-out mixtape.
I do believe that is one of the most random selection of songs I’ve done yet. The inclusion of Willie F’n Nelson in there only confirms it as such!
Written by Sykonee, 2010. © All rights reserved.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Sony Music Entertainment: Cat. # BK 67115
1. Anasthasia (1:48)
2. Bohemian Ballet (5:15)
3. Marta’s Song (4:13)
4. Gathering (4:39)
5. Lament (3:09)
6. Bulgarian Melody (3:09)
7. Deep Folk Song (1:13)
8. Freedom Cry (3:17)
9. Twosome (4:06)
10. Cafe Europa (4:17)
11. Katharina (2:53)
12. Boheme (4:37)
When I think about it, this has become an unfairly slept on record. Boheme was so far ahead of its time, what with the rise of 'Chilean goat farmer' techno the last couple years. This is, like, The Man-Machine of the genre! Heh, okay, seriously Deep Forest's sophomore has held up in a funny sort of way. I've still yet to hear anyone else sound like this album, melding such disparate cultures into some rather fine songs.)
IN BRIEF: The birth of Bulgarian Folk EDM.
This may be hard to believe given what hindsight reveals, but Deep Forest was at one time considered just as high profile as Enigma. When the ‘ethno-pop’ craze of the early 90s had adult contemporary crowds all abuzz, Eric Mouquet and Michel Sanchez’ project offered a bit of variation to the formula: Cretu may have brought the Gregorian monks, but Deep Forest brought the African pygmies. I’m not certain if they were the very first to do this, but their hit Sweet Lullaby certainly made them the most popular. And, by being lumped into the world beat fold along with Enigma, their profile only grew, the two acts practically joined at the hip in the public eye even if their sounds really weren’t that similar.
When Cretu proved he could beat the sophomore slump with The Cross Of Changes, many wondered if Deep Forest would be able to accomplish the same. Unfortunately, Mouquet and Sanchez had two things working against them: first off, despite Enigma’s Return To Innocence sustaining the scene a little longer, ‘ethno-pop’ had all but fizzled out by the time Deep Forest did release a follow-up to their self-titled debut; secondly, their muses had drifted to a completely different continent from the one that earned them their initial fanbase.
Boheme starts unassumingly enough, mind. The opening intro track, Anasthasia, is a moody little number. Grumbling bass, bits of woodwinds, and synthy washes make up the bulk as some faint chants echo in the background. However, if you are coming into this release with their pygmy styling being your initial exposure (and I’d wager many do, considering it’s those songs that still get the most compilation duty even today), you’ll undoubtedly notice there’s a different feel here. Almost folkish rather than tribal, but the origins may not be apparent as of yet.
Bohemian Ballet will give you your answer, and probably set your impression of this album for good. It has a synthy start as handclaps bring the pace up. Very soon, you hear an emphatic “Babam!” chant, the ethnic source being... Hungarian!
Yes folks, Deep Forest had decided to wander the far east of Europe for their inspiration, a move leaving many confused. After all, what did gypsy music have in common with pygmy chants? Hardly anything, to be honest, and that’s kind of the point. Mouquet and Sanchez were far more interested in exploring other cultures instead of re-hashing the same ideas that made them popular. The bigger question is whether they succeeded in this regard.
Well, Bohemian Ballet is kind of a miss. I can hear what they were going for, using the gypsy songs to complement a decent bit of house music. The mysterious atmosphere generated by pads and woodwinds certainly lends itself to the nature of gypsy mysticism, but things don’t quite gel. The “Babam!” chants sound out of sync with the straight-forward 4/4 music going on.
Marta’s Song features the vocal talents of Marta Sebestyen, who’s traditional Transylvanian singing was what inspired Deep Forest to pursue this avenue in Boheme. It’s a quaint tune, and Marta certainly has a fine voice (even if I don’t understand the lyrics, but that’s never stopped folks from enjoying world music anyways), but the folkish nature of this track may be off-putting to some if you came looking for typical dance music.
Returning to the mysterious gypsy front is Gathering, which comes off far better than Bohemian Ballet for this sort of thing. Whereas the club beats in the former sounded out of place, the more lethargic pace of this track creates the feeling of an enchanted, um, gathering, er, deep in the forest. Okay, so Deep Forest managed to title this track so appropriately, I don’t need to describe it much further. What matters is the haunting vocal samples and musical backdrop provided for them work, even if you aren’t quite hip to that whole gypsy thing.
However, if this East Europe folk styling hasn’t interested you much, then you’ll probably find this next stretch of songs a drag. To be fair, Mouquet and Sanchez do provide some intriguing pieces of music. Bookended by ominous soundscapes, Bulgarian Melody is a charming vehicle for Marta to sing a little ditty with a piano; Deep Folk Song has a fun build of stomping percussion, chants and an accordion, of all things. Lament and Freedom Cry are overflowing with traditional flavour though, and, quite frankly, isn’t for everyone. Heck, I’m at a loss as to who exactly this is for. I know Deep Forest wished to share these themes with a more contemporary crowd, but there’s a reason most folk music remains relatively isolated in their respective regions: cultural significance. Pop crowds usually can’t comprehend folk music unless it’s wrapped in a familiar theme (kind of like Deep Forest’s first release, actually).
Still, the duo do manage to provide some songs towards the latter end of Boheme which folks of any walk of life can probably get into. Twosome, again featuring Marta, is a wonderful showcase in just why the Enigma comparisons were so frequent back in the early 90s. It has all the hallmarks of your typical ‘ethno-pop’ with lovely, memorable lyrics, groovy backing rhythms, and synthy ambience to fill in the gaps, all wrapped in Deep Forest’s unique styling. Meanwhile, Cafe Europa sees the duo having their hand at club beats again, this time with the chants of American Natives and assorted folkish instruments. It’s alright, but isn’t the strongest dance track Deep Forest have ever done, and seems a bit unfocused once it gets going.
To finish the album out, Deep Forest come full circle in their sojourn of the Slavic states. Katharina is another brief instrumental akin to Anasthasia, while title-track Boheme encompasses the album’s various themes into a whole: folk songs, traditional instruments, synthy backings, and a groovy rhythm are all combined into quite the unique sounding track.
At the end of this, Boheme as an album is quite odd, especially if you approach it from typical Western fronts. Despite sometimes producing tracks which may indicate otherwise, Deep Forest has never really been a group aiming to fill dancefloors or Top 40 radiowaves (even if they did a secure a Grammy for this album, but what are those worth, eh?). Their aim has always been to explore the musical diversity our world has to offer, and attempt to blend them together. However, this idea seemed to turn off a great number of people who enjoyed their previous work in Deep Forest (later titled World Mix), which contained more Western ideas than their follow-ups; they lost all but an ardent group of fans shortly after this release, their third album Comprasa seemingly sealing the deal for the “we don’t get it” crowd.
Still, Boheme is an incredibly unique album. Whereas many producers will make use of a far East sample if it’s harmonic attributes are familiar to their own, Mouquet and Sanchez will let that sample’s native traditionalism shine through as they work around it instead. If you listen to Boheme in this regard, you’ll probably get more out of it.
Written by Sykonee. Originally published 2006 for TranceCritic.com. © All rights reserved.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Echodub: Cat. # ECHO003
Released April 2010
1. Subreachers - Memories Of A Better Time (3:41)
2. Box Mouse - 5:37am Outside The Station (4:53)
3. Actraiser - Imaginarium (6:40)
4. Egoless - Back Home (6:37)
5. Svpreme Fiend - Prover (3:17)
6. Think - All Wet (5:06)
7. SimonOff - Trip To Luca (5:29)
8. Lurka - Cosmic (3:38)
9. Tribal - White Rain (5:47)
10. Vandera - India Joya (6:10)
11. Lojik - White Room (5:51)
12. Jas - In A Heartbeat (5:57)
13. Dminus - Ultramarine (6:39)
IN BRIEF: Chill-step, yes!
As quickly as dubstep’s rise to critical popularity seemed to go, so too has the critical backlash. Perhaps it was to be expected though, what with everyone hopping on the Hot New Genre bandwagon at a time when EDM was dying for such. Now, however, it seems the journals and blogs are almost afraid to cover anything that isn’t a high-profile release, and I don’t blame them. Admit it: the moment you saw ‘dubstep’ in that first sentence, your eyes glazed over with either trepidation or disinterest.
Such a backlash is inevitable when the genre has been flooded with an ocean of dreary half-step beats, glitch effects, and gimmick basslines. If you’ve put any faith in yours truly though, you’ll know I wouldn’t be talking about a dubstep release if it didn’t have some merit. And of course, if I’m talking about dubstep with merit, chances are it’s of the ‘atmospheric’ variety, right? Yeah, that’s about right.
This free compilation from Echodub certainly is that, a label which has skewed more favorably towards the blissy side of grimey beats. Not content to simply be a showcase of their own artists, Echodub has rather rounded up a bunch of unknowns and fresh faces to the table: Box Mouse, Lojik, Vandera, and more.
The music itself isn’t “all dubstep, all the time” either. Indeed, we open up with nothing more than gentle piano ambience and haunting machine breathing (Memories Of Better Times). This is followed by lush, ethereal synth washes over a more typical half-step beat in Outside The Station; and while I’ve grown quite tired of hearing that “seen things you wouldn’t believe” sample (seriously, guys, Bladerunner did have more dialog, y’know), it doesn’t detract from Box Mouse’s lovely tune.
We run through a number of chill-out varieties for a good chunk of this digi-comp’s middle, each tune offering something unique, if not exactly fresh. Back Home has a bit of an Ibizan flavor, Prover comes off like a b-side to Burial’s album Untrue, All Wet sounds like it could have also been featured on an Ultimae release, while Trip To Luca channels IDM wonk. These are all fine for the most part, perfect chill-out fodder for a compilation of this sort.
The tunes in the second half of Echodub Loves, however, get a little more creative, bringing forward some of dubstep’s more common tropes and giving them a fresh spin for the chill sect. An easy highlight out of this bunch is India Joya from Vandera: think some of the best atmospheric jungle from the 90s and instead given a half-step beat; lovely tune, this be. White Room follows suite with a little more aggression, and In A Hearbeat gets proper dubby on our asses, bringing the compilation to a strong close. Erm, well, aside from that clicky dub-techno cut at the very end, which is only interesting if you’re up for some sub-whoofer torture.
Frankly, this should be a no-brainer of a release if you’re up for some creative chill-out. It’s free, for crissakes! Even if you don’t like all the tracks, you can still cherry-pick the ones you prefer at no cost to yourself. Fortunately, there’s enough musical strength here such that even a casual consumer of the heady-side of dubstep and atmospheric glitch can get some enjoyment from a full play-through.
Box Mouse - 5:37am Outside The Station
Vandera - India Joya
Lojik - White Room
Written by Sykonee, 2010. © All rights reserved.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Superstition: Cat. # 82833-2
Released June 1998
1. The Train Of Thought V. 0.9 (2:16)
2. The Train Of Thought V. 1.1 (6:58)
3. Go Fishing (8:25)
4. Cellular (9:21)
5. The Blaxone (7:43)
6. Rotation (7:40)
7. 88 (7:00)
8. Freakz (6:04)
9. Hellfire (7:14)
10. Deep Blue (9:28)
It undoubtedly shows, but I had a lot of fun writing this review. This was about the point I was realizing meticulously detailed track-by-track writing was quite dry to read, and knew there was no way I'd be able to get away with doing such with this release. So, I let the creative juices loose, turning in one of my more memorable pieces for TC. Wish I'd realized how much better this kind of review was earlier.)
IN BRIEF: The heart of Lieb’s darkness.
Oliver Lieb had done it! After half a decade of much critical but little commercial success, he’d finally produced a track that would get played out by trance DJs for years to come. Netherworld gave him the spotlight, won him a legion of new fans, and would earn him decent royalties as the track would go on to be featured on many DJ mix compilations and updated remix packages. It would be so easy for him to rest on those laurels, continue re-hashing Netherworld, and ride the burgeoning trance wave into the sunset. Except that’s not what happened.
Seeing the forthcoming commercialization of the genre he helped pioneer, Lieb gave the masses the finger and took his L.S.G. moniker in the completely opposite direction of epic anthems. His Black Series was not meant for those who’d just discovered trance as it was getting super-popular, but for those who’d stuck it out during the unforgiving underground years. It was his way of weeding out the L.S.G. bandwagoners, whom would come expecting more Netherworlds.
Well, that’s my theory, anyway.
Truthfully, that entire paragraph is just speculation. I think very few know exactly why Lieb took L.S.G. into unfriendly underground territories just as trance was blowing up all over Europe. Was it a knee-jerk reaction to the commercialization of the genre he fostered? Or perhaps he just decided to do a little experimenting? Probably only he knows for certain, but as a man who has always done exactly what he wants, I’m sure he had a very good reason for it. He’d probably quaintly answer you if you asked, although it is admittedly more fun to speculate.
Yes, The Black Album isn’t the most accessible CD. The tracks contained on here come from a string of vinyls known as The Black Series, and are arranged into a continuous mix. However, because the songs on those vinyls were strictly intended for the dancefloor, this creates a difficult album to sit back to.
What’s on it, then? Tech-trance, but only the most aggressive, unrelenting sort. This isn’t the kind of stuff you’d hear from guys like Marco V or Sander van Doorn; Lieb’s material eats their tracks as a midnight snack and takes a second helping without asking. You’ll find scant traces of any kind of melody, and usually only in a warped fashion. It’s primal, it’s feral, it’s predatory. To use a current cheesy yet popular internet meme, The Black Album is the Chuck Norris of tech-trance.
Wisely, Lieb opens the album up with The Train Of Thought, as it has the closest thing approaching a melody (the 0.9 version is just an ambient-ish intro). Amongst murky, mechanical rhythms, a pulse of spacey synth pierces the unsettling atmosphere every so often. Various effects tweak it throughout, distorting its resonance as the song progresses. There is no real conventional structure to The Train Of Thought, simply building upon layers of sound to raise the intensity of the track. It certainly is an entrancing bit of music but, if you find it not to your taste, you might want to seek other pastures; the tech influences only get stronger from here.
Go Fishing offers a clearer taste of what’s to come. Although the blasting distorted sirens, eerie effects, and synthetic pads could be construed as hooks, they don’t offer much in melody. Rather, they’re there to accentuate the driving mechanical rhythms as layer upon layer of loops keep building this track’s intensity. Yeah, it’s quite similar to Train Of Thought in structure, but far less benign in nature.
From here, any notion of detailing the rest of The Black Album in our usual method just flies out the window. Every track melds into each other, and, although you can usually tell when a different song is playing, it isn’t easy listening as there’s very little in terms of conventional hooks or melodies. And the sounds Lieb creates? Forget it. I don’t think there are any proper metaphors in my vocabulary to do them justice. The drone of a starship reactor; industrial strength clangs and clonks; brief bits of sputtering, distorted acid squelches; cyborg jembe drummers; splashes of bright synth; growling Imperial AT-ATs; demonic screams; radioactive chemicals boiling in huge factory vats; Unicron having a tummy ache; wraith-like wails; whatever else you may have. All this and more can be heard through tracks Cellular to Freakz, and it can be an unsettling experience if you succumb to the madness of it all.
The remarkable thing about all this is, despite the relative inaccessibility of these tracks, they are still amazingly seductive. Lieb has paid an incredible amount of attention to his rhythms, hooking you into their mesmerizing dance. All these menacing sound effects throughout are there to provide a primal backdrop, grabbing your primitive brain so the rhythms can overwhelm you. And with each successive track laying down the rhythms harder and fiercer, the intensity of this album just continuously escalates with no end in sight.
The final two tracks, Hellfire and Deep Blue, might trick you into thinking you’ll find some solace, as spacey synthy washes rather than menacing sounds provide the atmosphere. Alas for the weak at heart, Lieb shows no mercy, cranking his rhythms into overdrive in his rush to the finish. Hellfire is a hypnotizing cacophony of percussion while Deep Blue unleashes his fiercest kicks yet. You’ll only escape the madness of this once the droning, synthetic pads of Deep Blue finally recede.
Madness. Absolutely yes, The Black Album could cause madness if you let it. This is not something for throwing on while lounging about home enjoying tea and crumpets. The music on here is simply designed to pummel logic and reason into submission and let pure instinct take over. And this, my friends, can frighten many people. We do not readily enjoy losing control of our sensibilities, letting the animal within us to override our judgment. As such, the music on here will just come across as irritating noise if you merely play it in the background, your logic center uncaring towards what’s going on since the music defies what we typically expect out of trance, much less music in general. The entire middle section can easily pass you by without anything leaping out for your attention.
It may be a music journalistic cliché to say this, but The Black Album really is an album that demands your undivided attention, preferably while in the process of doing something active to get your adrenaline going (I recommend dancing, but working out, running, driving, or sexing can probably do in a pinch). I wouldn’t exactly say you’ll be rewarded for such attentiveness though, as you may not feel comfortable in where it’ll take you. Still, it will certainly not be a trip you’ll likely forget.
The Train Of Thought 1.1
Written by Sykonee. Originally published 2006 for TranceCritic.com. © All rights reserved.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Ninja Tune: Cat. # ZEN CD 115
Released February 21, 2006
1. Man In A Garage (3:27)
2. True Skool (3:34)
3. Just For The Kick (5:06)
4. Walk A Mile In My Shoes (5:08)
5. Mr. Nichols (5:46)
6. A Whistle And A Prayer (5:55)
7. Everything Is Under Control (3:36)
8. Boogie Man (3:49)
9. Aid Dealer (4:13)
10. This Island Earth (4:14)
11. Colours The Soul (4:19)
12. Sounds Mirrors (5:59)
As tediously bulky as this review is, it really isn't all that bad of a read. Could probably have shaved 1000 words off though, and still come out fine. Heh, I even realized how large it was getting midway through. The unfortunate thing is, though this album has held up quite well (musically anyway), I probably gave it more attention than most others did. By the end of 2006, few folks could even remember that Coldcut had a new album out. Quite a shame, really.)
IN BRIEF: Refresher in the Coldcut ethos, in case you missed it this past 20 years.
As a duo who’ve garnered many plaudits, you can be rest assured there would be a plethora of reviewers jumping at the chance to cover Coldcut’s latest full-length, Sound Mirrors. Every music critic with a not-so-humble opinion, after all, undoubtedly would love their word to be the first and final say regarding a new release from one of electronic music’s seminal tastemakers.
Since a couple months have passed since this was released, I decided to quickly scour the net for such reviews before I tackled it myself (for no better reason than to make sure I wouldn’t end up repeating what’d already been said). Unsurprisingly, good ol’ Google returned plenty of results. What struck me as odd, however, was the source of many of these reviews: a high percentage of them came from rock, indie, or mainstream outlets. Either the EDM media’s reviews were greatly overshadowed, or it just didn’t care as much.
Actually, I can see both reasons being somewhat related. Let’s face it: Coldcut are old... in EDM terms, anyway. Many of their original fans have grown into the establishment, and those who write about them have managed to worm their way into reputable rags. However, with the advent of more and more splinter scenes causing tunnel vision in the new cats, and the fact Coldcut really haven’t had a hit in years, their exposure seems to only be relegated to the oldest of old schoolers and Ninja Tune disciples... and boy do those reviews show it.
Ratings for Sound Mirrors thus far have been all over the map. Some have proclaimed this is the return of Coldcut everyone’s been waiting for. Others have stated the album sounds like Jonathon More and Matt Black have run out of innovative ideas, considering they had nearly a decade to produce something new. A few still don’t quite understand the big deal of over-indulgent ‘cut ‘n’ paste’ production, and still a few more seem to have just been exposed to it and think it’s genius. I’ve read a couple which seem to state more about the respect Coldcut deserve, giving the material just rewards for past achievements; oppositely, some believe the duo shouldn’t be given a bye for any missteps, letting the music speak for itself. And yet a couple-
Wait a minute! Am I here to review Sound Mirrors, or review other reviewers’ reviews of Sound Mirrors? I’ll stop now.
What we have here with Coldcut’s latest is More and Black bringing in a whole wack of collaborators, giving them each a unique musical backdrop, and, as is quite trendy right now, throwing political messages into the mix.
Okay, Coldcut have always had a few political songs in their prior releases, but normally mixed in with good ol’ party music to lighten the atmosphere. In Sound Mirrors though, even the fun tracks have messages in them (if at times minute) and are massively outnumbered by the melancholy numbers. All well and good to get some activism going in a generally apathetic crowd but with so many musicians doing this lately, it begs the question whether Coldcut’s messages will be poignant enough to get a few off their asses, or if it will just sound preachy and cliché. Let’s find out!
First up is Man In A Garage, a sort of folksy acoustic tune with electronic rhythms and effects burbling about. John Mattias provides the lyrics, an individual I only know as the butt end of jokes regarding khaki-sporting warblers. He doesn’t seem to have much to say in this case, repeating lines like “slide over” and “I just dialed this number, won’t you help me please?” It may be an allegory towards the repetitiveness of corporate operations but Mattias sounds too cryptic to be sure. Still, Man In A Garage is a decent, if odd, opener.
The always reliable Roots Manuva drops in for some speechifying with True Skool, essentially reminding us to keep shit real and not buy into false hype. I seem to hear this from him a lot but his Metaphor Well has yet to run dry, so it still sounds fresh. Musically, Coldcut don’t do much, keeping the arrangements sparse so Manuva can carry the song. Hand claps, 808 bass booms, a looping scratched-up sample, and Indian tablas and chants make up the bulk.
And with gaudy ‘electro’ house being all the rage these days, you just knew More and Black would have a go at it as well. Of course, they drop a message into the track, describing the very thing wrong with this music: its lack of musical ingenuity, settling for overly simple rhythms and hooks. Mind, they don’t blame the producers for this, but our complacent, self-absorbed society for being content with it and not demanding better. Yeah, it’s nothing original; we’ve heard Miss Kittin alone say the same thing for over half a decade now. Track’s alright though.
Walk A Mile In My Shoes brings house legend (and liquid funk favorite) Robert Owens in for a little soulful rendition over scattering rhythms and orchestral swells. The message? Try living a less privileged life, Mr. Well-Off! Heh, okay, it isn’t really that cynical. It’s more about getting the upper class to at least understand the situation of the poor rather than callously ignore them. And it helps that Owens’ passionate delivery gives this song honest-to-God sincerity.
Now we’ve arrived at the turning point of Sound Mirrors: Mr. Nichols. The album’s atmosphere totally changes from here: whereas the first few tracks were content to just be songs, Coldcut’s Big Messages begin to take larger precedent over the music with Mr. Nichols onward. The music in this track is practically non-existent, allowing Saul Williams’ spoken poetry to carry things over muted acoustic strums and jazzy noodlings. In addition, I’ve noticed opinions on this album tend to directly correspond with what you get out of Mr. Nichols. The storyline revolves around some Corporate McCorporateson, having been disillusioned by the capitalist system failing him, contemplates suicide. Saul’s spoken words offers Nichols an alternative, suggesting he let go of the corporate shackles and seek spiritual comfort. What does he decide? I don’t know. The song never seems to reveal that answer. Although there’s a specific story to this track, it’s just as much about the disillusionment many go through as the futures we dreamt of don’t quite pan out. As such, I can see how many could relate to this track, undoubtedly having gone through similar scenarios. Those who haven’t would probably interpret Mr. Nichols more literally, and be turned off by the pandering towards a corporate shill who never had the fortitude to break free before.
Shit, that was a big paragraph. Let’s get back to the album, eh?
As mentioned, the dynamic of Sound Mirrors does take a drastic change in tone with Mr. Nichols, and A Whistle And A Prayer carries on in similar fashion. This is an absolutely desolate track; I feel like I’m in the middle of some post-apocalyptic landscape, remnants of an ancient playground scattered about where the foundations are flaking off in the wind. The addition of a little folksy whistle tune only adds to the sense of innocence lost. It’s very cinematic, but quite dreary so be prepared.
In an attempt to lighten the mood again, Coldcut get all faux-cock-rock in Everything Is Under Control. It’s a cute novelty track, but nothing unique or enduring. The message in this one is every organization has control over each other and the world at large by means of corrupt manipulation and power-hungry overseers. No, really? What shocking news! I’m glad Coldcut is here to tell us this; I’d already forgotten since I last read it on an indie blog just two hours ago, much less in every post-9/11 liberal rant.
Boogie Man is a straight-forward ‘cut ‘n’ past’ dubby bit of broken beat. As usual, More and Black scrounge up some deliciously wicked ancient funk breaks and infuse them with a balanced mix of studio trickery. The lyrics could be interpreted as being spoken by a C.I.A. spook, but I’d rather just go with it being a guy who just likes to boogie. Why should everything have a political slant on here? It’s not like we don’t have enough of it already.
Like in Aid Dealer. This track opens with the title being repeated endlessly, and annoyingly gets stuck in your head. Then over one of those many sub-genres of UK garage (dubstep? grime? sublow? sub-grimestep??? I haven’t a clue), Sowento Kinch lays out the corruption in those charity organizations for Third World countries. Wait, even those seemingly nice people, who advertise on TV with several doe-eyed malnourished children and host mega charity concerts are just as slimy as capitalist pigs? My God, is there no decency left in this world!? Mind, this might have been shocking news to me had I not heard this rant from a sock puppet on Canada’s music station a few years before. Aid Dealer has a message to tell, but like these other highly political songs, it’s nothing we haven’t heard in the last five years from several other artists and activists. Music’s pretty good though.
This Island Earth also has a message to tell, this time about how we have to take care of our planet. Fortunately, Mpho Skeef’s diva delivery is quite nice for this track’s garagey backings, so it doesn’t come across as heavy-handed as some of the others. Oh, and that bass! It’ll definitely get the sub-whoofer fanboys’ pants wet.
Two instrumentals close the album out. Colours The Soul has some nice orchestral samples but is a pretty bland bit of acid jazz. However, Sound Mirrors uses a quirky looping sample of... um, I’m not sure what it is actually. My best guess is a strangled recording of a Japanese folk song, but given Coldcut’s intense music archiving, I could be way off base. Anyway, Sound Mirrors adds additional layers of a wide assortment of sources, each loop playing off the initial once. Eventually, big orchestral swells build into the peak of the track, then everything is cut back, letting the initial loop fade off. It’s actually quite the nifty sonic experiment, and dare I say the best thing on this whole album. Why? For that answer, check my closing thoughts below.
Let me first address my main gripe: the political nature of a number of these songs. I’m not against their messages but, unfortunately for Coldcut (whom are always sincere when it comes to politics), nothing new is added to the plate. Had this been released before or even shortly after 9/11, perhaps their words would hold more impact, but even Top 40 acts have managed to worm in similar activist slants. Besides, a great deal of Coldcut’s fanbase are already boned up on these issues anyways, so it just comes off as preaching to the choir if you’re a long-time fan.
All this wouldn’t be the problem with Sound Mirrors it is if it weren’t for the fact so many songs are vocal driven. It’s no surprise to me the better songs on this album are where we get to hear Coldcut do what they do best, namely produce music that creates a collage of disparate sounds. This just doesn’t happen enough though, and a number of songs are bland or uninteresting when the lyrics seems to be the focus. The end results sound like they could have been made by any number of artists.
I’m not saying Coldcut shouldn’t have done what they did with Sound Mirrors. They’ve been in the game for over two decades, and having nothing to prove; More and Black have earned the right to do whatever they want with their music. It’s just something of a letdown they instead decided to add yet another unnecessary voice to an already noisy activism crowd. We’ve always known where they stood on the political spectrum, so re-hashing the same speeches when everyone else is doing it now just sounds redundant.
Sound Mirrors is still an above average album though. Even if they don’t do as much as I’d have hoped, the music production is top notch, and you can’t beat the creativity or the variety to be had in the soundscapes Coldcut has crafted here. If you don’t mind a little (okay, a lot) of activism in your music, then do check this release out. There’s not much else out there that sounds quite like Sound Mirrors.
Walk A Mile In My Shoes
Written by Sykonee. Originally published 2006 for TranceCritic.com. © All rights reserved.
1. The Higher Intelligence Agency - Speedlearn (Empathy Mix)
From the album Colourform.
Ah, good ol’ H.I.A. You don’t hear techno of this sort much anymore. Blissy vibes, bleepy hooks, dubby ambience; trance without being trance. Most of Bobby Bird’s uptempo cuts were less experimental, often opting for simplicity for the dancefloor’s sake (even if that dancefloor was often the chill room, but that didn’t stop The Orb either), and this is no exception. Check it out if you want some nifty old-school, or have a hankering for ambient techno of any sort, though in this case the kind that’ll have you floating in space rather than a dub-techno dungeon.
2. Eurythmics - Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves
From the album Greatest Hits.
You can’t escape the 80s, ever! Actually a duet with soul legend Aretha Franklin, but my CD doesn’t list that in the credits, so it’s titled as such there. The song itself? Ah, you know how 80s stabs at funk goes: expertly produced, yet an undeniable stiffness to it. In a way, you’d expect that from Eurythmics since their biggest tunes were synth pop songs. Nothing synth-driven here though. What’s kind of amusing about this, however, is just how pro-feminism it is, despite the fact Annie Lennox was making her reputation as something of a sex symbol during this time; albeit an androgynous one.
3. Dissidenten - A Love Supreme (Club Mix)
From the compilation Planet Rave.
One of the earliest groups to start fusing world music with Western pop, way back in the 80s actually (I sense a trend here…). Once the 90s rolled around, they made their bed with euro dance and released a few memorable singles, probably most notably Jungle Book Part II on Eye Q (yes, there you go, trance lovers). This particular tune is more in line with what you’d expect from the group, being the featured single from the album Jungle Book and all, in this case taking New Jack Swing and Indian music, blending them in a big ol’ world beat bowl. It’s fine for what it is, but let’s face it: you’re more interested in that Jungle Book link, aren’t you.
4. Quirk - Dark Matter
From the compilation Goa Spirit 3.
Track #4, which means it’s time for the odd rarity cut. And sure enough, we have one twisted piece of psy served up. The duo’s comprised of Tim Healey and Mark Allen, the former of which has been in several groups over the years. Quirk itself only lasted half a decade, but arose during that time in psy’s history when melody began taking a backseat to warped acid squelches and rambly sequences. Dark Matter’s no different, with acid drops that are wicked awesome, but kind of a trudge to get to.
5. The Realm & V - One Chance (The Realm House Mix)
From the DJ Mix Get Salted Volume 1 by Miguel Migs.
V, as in Valvin Roane, but is a pretty typical ‘soulful house’ vocalist. Actually, this whole tune’s rather generic as it is. Not poor or anything - as I’ve said countless times, it’s pretty hard to fuck up funky soul music that has a bouncy 4/4 vibe. It’s just there are an endless, countless number of tunes like this out there, many of which are promptly forgotten a month after they’re enjoyed. Sad really, but such is the fate of most house singles.
Hm, well I don’t see any theme out of this week, do you? Yeah, it’s quite a random one. That #4 trend is starting to get creepy though. Guess you’ll have to check back next week to see if it’s maintained.
Written by Sykonee, 2010. © All rights reserved.
Monday, May 17, 2010
1. Fear Factory - Cyberdyne
From the album Demanufacture.
Actually, from the double-CD reissue of that album, and tagged onto the Remanufacture remix disc. Cyberdyne didn’t make the initial cut, so became an added track to the Burn single. This is getting confusing, so here’s all you need to know. Junkie XL did this remix (I’m not sure of what original track though), which was one of his earliest production credits. There isn’t much to it, sounding like a fairly generic action movie big-beat backdrop. Mind, Junkie XL was mostly responsible for that sound, so I guess he gets a pass here.
2. Fear Factory - National Panel Beating
From the album Demanufacture.
What the hell? Another track from the same CD!? Holy shit, what are the odds of that happening? Yeah, maybe in the same 5-song sampling, but not right after another. What is different, at least, is who the remixer is, in this case Rhys Fulber. Ol’ Rhys had been hanging around Fear Factory during the recording of the album, and whom primarily gave Fear Factory their heavy industrial fusion. Here, he gives the track the Front Line Assembly treatment, with big sluggish beats complementing the thrashy guitar licks. Conjure One fans will be shocked.
3. Brian Wilson - Good Vibrations
From the album SMiLE.
Y’know, this doesn’t sound nearly as good as the original cut, and it isn’t just because Wilson’s not the same singer he was forty years prior. The production seems flatter, less vibrant, and The Not Beach Boys just can’t quite match that group’s wonderful harmonizing. That said, in context of the album Smile, it sounds awesome, a perfect capper to an already great body of music. I only recommend listening to this version as such. By the way, are we in for another ‘all rock’ week? Heh, guess who’s likely to show up then…
4. µ-Ziq - Mushroom Compost
From the album Lunatic Harness.
Oh, well, I guess you didn’t figure Michael Paradinas, did you. Neither did I, but then the #4 track in these lists always seem to be the oddball song, so at least that’s consistent. Mid-90s IDM wonk, so it’s either brilliant or gash, according to your preference for that sort of thing. In fact, you can really feel the SquareTwin (Aphex Pusher?) influence here, as it’s pretty much a pairing of those two’s styles - specifically Jenkinson’s drums and James’ melodies.
5. General Midi vs Lurch - Outa Orbit
From the DJ Mix Freebass Breakz And Sub Phunk Beats by Brock Landers.
Aww, yeah. Nu-skool breaks when they were still nu; spacey sound effects and street-level funk. I love this sound and was quite dismayed when it died off along with most of the breaks genre. This is actually an alternate alias of Starecase, whom have done various remixes of prominent trance producers over the years (Paul van Dyk, Der Dritte Raum, Tiësto, to namedrop just a few). Paul Crossman would go on to retain the General Midi alias to this day. This DJ mix is pretty good too, if you’re up for some good ol’ fashioned breaks bizzness; kind of rare these days though.
Well I’ll be damned. No Neil Young this time! The sorta-streak has ended. Heh, and here I was thinking it was a shoe-in this time, given those first few tunes. Still, it’s a curious clutch of compositions, but I’m going to wrap it up here, lest I continue to overindulge with alliteration.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
The Grey Area: Cat. # KIRK 07 CD
Disc 1: Digital Lifeforms
1. Armed Response (7:43)
2. Chocolate Machine (7:34)
3. Digital Lifeforms (8:05)
4. Human Spirit (7:00)
5. Drum Meditation (7:01)
6. Limbo (8:47)
7. Zombie Astral (8:27)
8. Beam (6:47)
9. Steel Tabarnacle (7:52)
10. White Darkness (9:10)
Disc 2: Redux
1. Communicate (With The Future) (7:03)
2. Ocean Reflection (8:53)
3. Tribal Warfare (7:43)
4. White Tab/Steel Darkness (Tetrodotoxin Mix) (9:27)
5. Erzulie (7:27)
6. Human Spirit (Original Dub And Roll Mix) (6:59)
7. Zombi Savane (7:02)
8. Medium Cool (10:15)
9. Shanpwel (6:04)
10. Mirror (3:37)
I think I underrated this album at the time. Yeah, I enjoyed it when I first picked it up about a month before I wrote this review, but Digital Lifeforms has gone on to be one of my most heavily replayed CDs ever since. For all its dated attributes, I cannot deny the fact the music here is just so damned good. I hope this clunky review won't turn away other potential listeners.)
IN BRIEF: Malians and machinery melded.
It seems one thing you can count on in electronic music lately is re-issues. With so many rare, underground releases fetching high prices on eBay, you can be rest assured some producers and labels feel they’re missing a potential gravy train. Mind, it isn’t always their fault if they didn’t initially realize this. Many releases hardly make an impact during their first year or two. It’s usually through gradual exposure and word-of-mouth praise something garners ‘cult classic’ status. The scarcity of such releases only adds to its mystique and, before you know it, you’re paying a hundred bucks online for the chance to own an original copy.
Because of these inflated prices, it’s quite nice to see such ‘cult classics’ getting re-issues, often with added bonuses like B-Sides, rare remixes, and other assorted gobbledygook. Of course, I wouldn’t doubt collectors who own the originals moan and groan about this (mainly because if slightly de-values their own investment, despite whatever other excuse they tell you) but it is a great way for newer fans to catch up on old releases at a reasonable price.
Digital Lifeforms is easily one such release. Originally produced by Richard Kirk as a means to explore other musical avenues after a decade of industrial with Cabaret Voltaire, the album garnered many plaudits for its more ‘intelligent’ take on techno (remember, this was at a time when acts like The Prodigy and 2 Unlimited were tearing up the charts). While by no means the only individual to approach techno with a ‘not-just-party-music’ ethos, Kirk’s work as Sandoz certainly made a mark with his unique tribal fusion. Unfortunately, it was released on the UK indie ‘audiovisual’ label Touch, whom has a tendency to produce limited copies of their releases due to their artistic endeavors (their approach is similar to printing only a few paintings for an art gallery). As such, the album was doomed to obscurity by all but the most dedicated collector... until now (well, early 2004, to be specific).
The history out of the way, exactly what does this ‘cult classic’ sound like, and does it hold up in this day in age? Before I answer that, I should ask you, the reader, three questions:
1. Can you dig rhythms that sound like they come straight from Roland drum machines?
2. Do you like repetitive loops to some degree?
3. Does your taste in music allow for somewhat under-produced sound?
If you answered ‘no’ to any of these, and figure there will never be a ‘yes’ to them for all of your musical life, then you may as well hit that Back button in your web browser and forget Digital Lifeforms; this album is not for you; try something from Anjunabeats instead. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the sounds of Sandoz are dated (especially when gritty underproduction seems to actually be the current trend in EDM lately), but Kirk’s industrial roots are still present, as he seems to hold no qualms about dirtying some of his patches if it meshes with his ideas.
Opener Armed Response is as good an example of his production technique as any. His percussion is kind of grimy, his string samples blatant, and his bassline muddy. Strangely enough, it all works in Kirk’s own way. There is an undeniable tribal energy to be had, even if it is somewhat mellow. Granted, this track could hold more appeal were it cleaned up, but then it wouldn’t be Sandoz, now would it?
If you found Armed Response too abrasive for your liking, the good news is the rest of the tracks are tidier in arrangement, if not always in production. Chocolate Machine starts with looping samples of woodwinds before the machinery settles in. The rhythm is very crisp, sounding like some sort of factory; however, various samples and pleasant melodies give this track an organic quality that tends to lack in much techno. Every element has plenty of breathing room, letting the resonance drift from beat to beat without getting drowned out in effects. It may sound sparse but Chocolate Machine is still a nice little track.
Title track Digital Lifeforms has an effective yin/yang thing going for it, mixing it up with cute little melodies and ominous string pads. Admittedly, some of the sounds used could have come straight from a SNES game. Heck, I can even identify some of the more bubbly bass sounds as pre-sets form my father’s old Roland synths. Given how far sound production had come even by ‘92, you’d think this track shouldn’t have stood a chance. Yet, there’s something oddly entrancing about the sparseness in Kirk’s style. Chalk it up to the catchy melodies, however simple they may be.
Human Spirit sees Kirk starting to indulge in the more tribal aspects of the Sandoz project. Over a looping chant, sweeping sinewaves and simple echoing hooks snake around 4/4 rhythms. This track’s sparse repetitiveness is quite trancey, and probably would have appeared on some very early trance compilations had more known of it. Well, okay, this was probably closer to ambient techno than classic trance, but the two weren’t that far removed when you boil down to it. Oh, and what’s with that old funk sample tagged on at the end? I don’t know which I find more amusing: the fact it actually works, or that the ‘damn’ bit is bleeped out! Heh, crafty, that Kirk.
Diving into some groovy dubbed-out soundscapes is Drum Meditation. It’s a pretty lethargic track, casually bobbing along as oddball sounds pop in and out over synthetic and organic percussion. Yeah, there’s not much to it, but it's decent chill fodder in any event.
Building upon the template laid out in Human Spirit is Limbo, a track which structurally does the same thing but more vigorously. The sweeping synths are clearer, the rhythm far more energetic and punchy, and the tribal chants catchier. Of additional note is the bassline: while many of the Sandoz basslines have been deep, grumbly beasts, the one in Limbo is a serious groover. No more apparent is this than some two-thirds into the track; when it drops after a rhythmic build, you won’t be able to help but bob your head in time.
Using some tribal percussion to set the pace, Zombie Astral is even more brisk than Limbo. However, it’s far more interested in subtlety, as the only element beyond percussion that does more than loop is a bubbly bassline played at a very low frequency. The synth pads and horn riffs surrounding it are nice little add-ons but don’t draw much attention to themselves.
We’re now reaching the dubbed-out outro section of Digital Lifeforms, and the final three tracks are quite nice at what they do. Beam sounds like an ambient dub version of Limbo (indeed, the same tribal chants are used); Steel Tabarnacle’s paranoid soundscapes are griping, and has a bassline with wonderful resonance; and White Darkness, while probably the most disjointed track on this, has some interesting movements between tribal percussion, chants, and dubby melodies. These tracks are a great way to finish out the album, drawing you into a hypnotic trance as the slight sounds and warm pads envelop your ears. You probably won’t even notice that dated percussion anymore, even if it was a turn-off in the earlier portions of the disc.
The main attraction out of the way, I suppose you’re wondering what’s up with the second disc now. To sum it up, most of these bonus tracks don’t measure up to the first disc, which isn’t too surprising. They are, after all, tracks that for various reasons never made the cut. A couple of them have appeared elsewhere but mostly are all unreleased.
While Kirk has arranged the bonus tracks to form some sort of flow, the ideas tend to be disparate form track to track. Listening to it, I get the impression he had a lot of avenues to explore his own techno when Voltaire was winding down. In the process, he refined it into his own style, of which became the basis for Digital Lifeforms. And, despite the tracks not sounding quite as definitive as the first disc, there are definitely some intriguing moments to be had for even the casual Sandoz fan. Here’s a summary:
Communicate (With The Future) - Bit of a chipper slice of ambient techno, with digitized voices speaking the title; reminds me of Bobby Bird’s work of the same era.
Ocean Reflection - Loopy; spacey. Decent example of old school trance, though could just as easily be considered techno with repeating pads.
Tribal Warfare - Bassline sounds like it’s been lifted by many modern ‘electro’ house producers. Decent tribal techno workout with bleepy hooks.
White Tab/Steel Darkness (Tetrodotoxin Mix) - White Darkness spread over extra echo effects and slightly funkier rhythms.
Erzulie - This bares the closest resemblance to the Digital Lifeforms material, which makes sense as it was a B-Side to one of the singles. Warm pads, bumpin’ tribal grooves, horn hooks, but still a notch below the griping qualities of disc one.
Human Spirit (Original Dub And Roll Mix) - Could also be called the House Mix, as the rhythms get funkier, the funk sample gets looped quite often, and, um, that’s about it. Pretty fun.
Zombi Savane - Kirk has a try at some acid house, with a warbley bassline, tongue-in-cheek samples (“Get higher, baby”), and somewhat gritty hooks. Aside from some flutes though, nothing distinctively Sandozian.
Medium Cool - The first Sandoz track, and boy does it show. It’s basically most of the elements found in Drum Meditation looped to eternity, with various, unremarkable percussion fills to spice it up. The least interesting bonus to be had.
Shanpwel - The most interesting bonus to be had! Funky tribal breaks with chants overtop and quirky drum programming so it doesn’t just sound like loops. Heck, I’d say this is even better than some of the material on disc one, although it hardly fits the same theme.
Mirror - Noodly ambient track with ‘dark’ sounds setting the tone. It’s a shorty so at least it doesn’t drag.
Whew. What a long-winded review, eh? I suppose it can’t be helped. Digital Lifeforms is, after all, a highly recommended album by old school techno, IDM, and even dub fans. To try and wishy-wash around the details wouldn’t do this release justice (even if I did get a little brief in descriptions towards the end of it, heh).
Given the scarcity of the original Digital Lifeforms, this Redux edition is definitely worth your attention if you’ve been curious of the Sandoz project -you get all sorts of unique sounds which were new territory for its time. Amusingly enough, with the whole electro and minimal trend going on lately, this release has the benefit of still sounding relevant well over a decade since it first cropped up. Isn’t retro a grand thing?
Written by Sykonee. Originally published 2006 for TranceCritic.com. © All rights reserved.
Monday, May 10, 2010
1. Guru - When You’re Near
From the album Jazzmatazz: Volume 1.
Timely, this. Backing vocals are by N'Dea Davenport, with music doing the acid jazz thing well before acid jazz really caught on with Ninja Tune. It’s really more of an evolution of thoughtful hip-hop that was quite popular in the early 90s (the fabled Golden Age for many): in this case, Guru took the idea of sampling jazz records one step further, creating his own jazz beats and including several session musicians. This tune’s more stripped down than much of what appeared on the album, but classy just the same.
2. P.M. Dawn - Reality Used To Be A Friend Of Mine
From the album Of The Heart, Of The Soul And Of The Cross: The Utopian Experience.
Whoa, another Golden Age song? P.M. Dawn seems to have gone down as something of a joke lately regarding hip-hop white people like, which has some merit - the group’s always been one of the cleaner acts of the genre with their spiritual themes. This one’s about relationships or something’r other; very pleasant mood and groovy beat. Check it out if you like your rap, erm, hook friendly and unaggressive.
3. Banco de Gaia - Glove Puppet (Dreadzone Remix)
From the album 10 Years: Remixed.
I was wondering how long it’d take for Marks to make his way here. Aside from Neil Young, I have more BdG albums than any other artist. Heh, funny that it’d be a remix that finally does make it here though. It’s probably one of the better remixes of a Banco tune, with Dreadzone doing some kind of shuffling salsa to complement Folkner’s plaintive vocals. God, but does she ever sound tragic here. I love it!
4. Nordreform Sound System - Schlabberdance
From the DJ Mix Cosmic Trance 02 by DJ Heyoka.
There isn’t much to say here, as less than four minutes of the track was used in this mix. The shortlived duo was comprised of Ben Wierzoch and Sven Dohse (according to Discogs anyway). Dedicated psy heads undoubtedly know Ben from his Planet B.E.N. project, which has been around forever. As with a lot of mid-90s psy, this is really hard to describe, especially with so little amount here. There’s a weird, wet noise that’s quite cool though.
DJ Brace - Shades Of Red
From the compilation Northern Faction 3.
Meh. This sounds like it’s trying to do the IDM-hop thing, and coming off very stilted in the process. The beats are just too programmed to be interesting. I can imagine him sitting at the studio and meticulously pointing and clicking every little fill and hi-hat, making sure it’s all perfectly quantized. I’m probably wrong on that, mind, but that’s what this sounds like to me. No blame.
Well, that was an odd assortment of songs, and really short at that. I almost thought we’d get that “all hip-hop” Mini-Review finally. Maybe some other time. Until next week then, where the randomness of chance will bring us yet another unexpected bunch of tunes (except probably Young; it’s an odd week).
Written by Sykonee, 2010. © All rights reserved.
Things I've Talked About
...txt 10 Records 16 Bit Lolita's 1965 1966 1967 1969 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2 Play Records 2 Unlimited 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 20xx Update 2562 302 Acid 4AD 6 x 6 Records 75 Ark 7L & Esoteric 808 State A Perfect Circle A Positive Life A-Wave A&M Records A&R Records Abasi Above and Beyond abstract Ace Tracks Playlists Ace Ventura acid acid house acid jazz acid techno acoustic Adam Freeland Adham Shaikh ADNY Adrian Younge adult contemporary Aegri Somnia Aes Dana Afrika Bambaataa Afro-house Afterhours Agoria Ajana Records AK1200 Akshan album Aldrin Alex Theory Alio Die Alphabet Zoo Alphaxone Altar Records Alter Ego alternative rock Alucidnation Ambelion ambient ambient dub ambient techno Ambient World Ambientium Ametsub Amon Tobin Amplexus Anabolic Frolic Andrea Parker Andrew Heath Androcell anecdotes Aniplex Anjunabeats Another Fine Day Antendex anthem house Anthony Rother Anti-Social Network Aphasia Records Aphex Twin Apócrýphos Apollo Apple Records April Records Aqua Aquascape Aquila Arcade arena rock Arista Armada Armin van Buuren Arpatle Arts & Crafts ASC Ashtech Asian Dub Foundation Astral Waves Astralwerks AstroPilot Asura Asylum Records ATCO Records Atlantic Atlantis atmospheric jungle Atomic Hooligan Atrium Carceri Attic Audion AuroraX Autistici Aveparthe Avicii Axiom Axtone Records B.G. The Prince Of Rap Babygrande Balance Balanced Records Balearic ballad Banco de Gaia Bandulu battle-rap Beastie Boys Beat Buzz Records Beats & Pieces Beck Bedouin Soundclash Beechwood Music Benny Benassi Berlin-School Beto Narme bhangra big beat Big Boi Big L Big Life Bill Hamel Bill Laswell BineMusic BioMetal Biosphere BKS Black Hole Recordings black rebel motorcycle club Black Swan Sounds Blanco Y Negro Blasterjaxx Blend Blood Music Blow Up Blue Öyster Cult blues Bluescreen BMG Boards Of Canada Bob Dylan Bob Marley Bobina Bone Thugs-N-Harmony Boney M Bong Load Records Booka Shade Botchit & Scarper Boxed Boys Noize Boysnoize Records braindance Brandt Brauer Frick breakcore breaks Brian Eno Brian Wilson Brick Records Brodinski broken beat Brooklyn Music Ltd Bryan Adams BT Buffalo Springfield Bulk Recordings Burial Burned CDs Bush Busta Rhymes Calibre calypso Capitol Records Capsula Captured Digital Carbon Based Lifeforms Carl B Carl Craig Carol C Caroline Records Carpe Sonum Records CD-Maximum Celestial Dragon Records Cell Celtic Cheb i Sabbah Cheeky Records Chihei Hatakeyama chill-out chiptune Chris Duckenfield Chris Fortier Chris Korda Chris Sheppard Christopher Lawrence Chromeo Chronos Chrysalis Ciaran Byrne cinematic soundscapes Circular Cirrus Cities Last Broadcast CJ Stone Claptone classic house classic rock classical Claude Young Clear Label Records Cleopatra Cloud 9 Club Cutz Cocoon Recordings Coldcut Coldplay Colette collagist Columbia Com.Pact Records comedy Compilation Comrie Smith Connect.Ohm conscious Control Music Cor Fijneman Cosmic Gate Cosmic Replicant Cosmos Studios Council Of Nine Counter Records country country rock Covert Operations Recordings Crazy Horse Cream Creamfields Crockett's Theme Crosby Stills And Nash Crosstown Rebels crunk Cryo Chamber Cube Guys Culture Beat cut'n'paste Cyan Music Cyber Productions CyberOctave Czarface D-Bridge D-Fuse Dacru Records Daddy G Daft Punk Damian Lazarus Damon Albarn Dan The Automator Dance 2 Trance Dance Pool dancehall Daniel Heatcliff Daniel Wanrooy Dao Da Noize dark ambient dark psy darkside darkstep darkwave David Bickley David Morley DDR Deadmau5 Death Row Records Deejay Goldfinger Deep Dish Deep Forest deep house Deeply Rooted House Deepwater Black Def Jam Recordings Del Tha Funkee Homosapien Delerium Deltron 3030 Depeche Mode Der Dritte Raum Derek Carr Detroit DFA DGC diametric. Dieselboy Different DigiCube Dillinja dirty house Dirty South Dirty Vegas disco Disco Gecko disco house disco punk Discover (label) Disky Disques Dreyfus Distant System Disturbance DJ 3000 DJ Brian DJ Craze DJ Dan DJ Dean DJ Gonzalo DJ Heather DJ John Kelley DJ Merlin DJ Mix DJ Moe Sticky DJ Observer DJ Premier DJ Q-Bert DJ Shadow DJ-Kicks Djen Ajakan Shean DJMag DMC DMC Records Doc Scott Dogon Dogwhistle Dopplereffekt Dossier downtempo dowtempo Dr. Atmo Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show Dragon Quest dream house DreamWorks Records Drexciya drill 'n' bass Dronarivm drone Dronny Darko drum 'n' bass drunken review dub Dub Pistols dub techno Dub Trees Dubfire dubstep DuMonde Dune E-Mantra E-Z Rollers Eardream Music Earthling Eastcoast EastWest Eat Static EBM Echodub Ed Rush & Optical Editions EG EDM World Weekly News electro Electro House Electro Sun electro-funk electro-pop electroclash Electronic Dance Essentials Electrovoya Elektra Elektrolux em:t EMC update EMI Eminem Emmerichk Emperor Norton enCAPSULAte Engine Recordings Enigma Enmarta Epic epic trance Erik Vee Erol Alkan Escape ethereal euro dance Eurythmics Eve Records Ewan Pearson experimental Eye Q Records F Communications Fabric Fade Records Faithless Fallen fanfic Fatboy Slim Fax +49-69/450464 Fear Factory Fedde Le Grand Fehrplay Feist Fektive Records Felix da Housecat Fennesz Ferry Corsten FFRR field recordings Filter filters Final Fantasy Five AM Fjäder Flashover Recordings Floating Points Flowers For Bodysnatchers Flowjob Fluke Flying Lotus folk footwork Force Intel Fountain Music Four Tet FPU Frank Bretschneider Frankie Bones Frankie Knuckles Fred Everything freestyle French house Front Line Assembly fsoldigital.com Fugees full-on Fun Factory funk future garage Future Sound Of London g-funk gabber Gabriel Le Mar Galaktlan Galati Gang Starr gangsta garage Gas Gasoline Alley Records Gee Street Geffen Records Gel-Sol Genesis Gerald Donald Get Physical Music ghetto Ghostface Killah glam Gliese 581C glitch Global Underground Globular goa trance God Body Disconnect Gorillaz gospel Gost goth Grammy Awards grime Groove Armada Groove Corporation Grooverider grunge Guru GZA Haddaway Halgrath happy hardcore hard house hard rock hard trance hardcore Hardfloor hardstyle Harmless Harmonic 33 Harold Budd Harthouse Harthouse Mannheim Hawtin Hearts Of Space Hed Kandi Hell Hercules And Love Affair Hernán Cattáneo Hi-Bias Records Hic Sunt Leones Hiero Emperium Hieroglyphics High Contrast Higher Intelligence Agency hip-hop hip-house hipno Hooj Choons Hope Records horrorcore Hospital Records Hot Chip Hotflush Recordings house Huey Lewis & The News Human Blue Hybrid Leisureland Hyperdub Hypertrophy hypnotic records I Awake I.F.O.R. I.R.S. Records Iboga Records Ice Cube Ice H2o Records ICE MC IDM illbient Imperial Dancefloor Imploded View In Charge In Trance We Trust Incoming Incubus indie rock Industrial Infected Mushroom Infinite Guitar influence records Infonet Inner Ocean Records Insane Clown Posse Inspectah Deck Instinct Ambient Instra-Mental Inter-Modo Interchill Records Internal International Deejays Gigolo Interscope Records Intimate Productions Intuition Recordings ISBA Music Entertainment Ishkur Island Records Italians Do It Better italo disco italo house Jack Moss Jam and Spoon Jam El Mar James Horner James Murray James Zabiela Jamie Jones Jamie Myerson Jamie Principle Javelin Ltd. Jay Haze Jay Tripwire Jaydee jazz jazz dance jazzstep Jean-Michel Jarre Jefferson Airplane Jerry Goldsmith Jesper Dahlbäck Jive Jive Electro Jliat Jlin Joel Mull Joey Beltram John '00' Fleming John Digweed John Graham John Kelly John O'Callaghan Johnny Cash Johnny Jewel Jonny L Jori Hulkkonen Jørn Stenzel Josh Wink Journeys By DJ™ LLC Joyful Noise Recordings Juan Atkins juke Jump Cut Jumpin' & Pumpin' jungle Junior Boy's Own Junkie XL Juno Reactor Jurassic 5 Kay Wilder KDJ Ken Ishii Kenji Kawai Kenny Glasgow Keoki Keosz Kerri Chandler Kevin Braheny Kevorkian Records Khooman Khruangbin Kid Koala Kiko Kinetic Records King Cannibal King Midas Sound King Tubby Kitaro Klang Elektronik Klaus Schulze Koch Records Koichi Sugiyama Kolhoosi 13 Komakino Kompakt Kon Kan Kool Keith Kozo Kraftwelt Kraftwerk Krafty Kuts krautrock Krill.Minima Kris O'Neil Kriztal Kruder and Dorfmeister Krusseldorf KuckKuck Kurupt L.S.G. Lab 4 Ladytron Lafleche Lange Large Records Lars Leonhard Laserlight Digital LateNightTales Latin Laurent Garnier LCD Soundsystem Leama and Moor Lee 'Scratch' Perry Lee Norris Leftfield Legacy Leon Bolier Linear Labs Lingua Lustra liquid funk Liquid Sound Design Liquid Stranger Live live album Loco Dice Lodsb London acid crew London Classics London Elektricity London Records 90 Ltd London-Sire Records Loop Guru Loreena McKennitt Lorenzo Montanà Lost Language Loud Records Loverboy Luaka Bop Luciano Luke Slater Lustmord M_nus M.A.N.D.Y. M.I.K.E. Madonna Magda Mali Mammoth Records Marc Simz Marcel Dettmann Marco Carola Marco V Mark Farina Mark Norman Mark Pritchard Markus Schulz Marshmello Martin Cooper Martin Nonstatic Märtini Brös Marvin Gaye Maschine Massive Attack Masta Killa Matthew Dear Max Graham maximal Maxx MCA Records McProg Meanwhile Meat Loaf Meditronica Menno de Jong Mercury Mesmobeat metal Method Man Metroplex Metropolis Miami Bass Miami Dub Machine Michael Brook Michael Jackson Michael Mayer Mick Chillage micro-house microfunk Microscopics MIG Miguel Migs Mike Saint-Jules Mike Shiver Miktek Mille Plateaux Millennium Records Mind Distortion System Mind Over MIDI mini-CDs minimal minimal tech-house Ministry Of Sound miscellaneous Misja Helsloot Miss Kittin Miss Moneypenny's Mixmag Mo Wax MO-DU Moby Model 500 modern classical Moist Music Moodymann Moonshine Moss Garden Motech Moving Shadow Mujaji Murmur Music link Music Man Records musique concrete Mutant Sound System Mute Muzik Magazine My Best Friend Mystica Tribe N-Trance Nacht Plank Nadia Ali Nas Nature Sounds Naughty By Nature Nebula Neil Young Neotropic nerdcore Nettwerk Neurobiotic Records New Age New Jack Swing new wave Nic Fanciulli Nick Höppner Night Time Stories Nimanty Nine Inch Nails Ninja Tune Nirvana No Mask Effect Nobuo Uematsu Nomad Nonesuch Nonplus Records Nookie Nordic Trax Norman Feller Northumbria Nothing Records NovaMute NRG Ntone nu-jazz nu-skool Nuclear Blast Entertainment Nulll Nurse With Wound NXP Octagen Offshoot Offshoot Records Ol' Dirty Bastard old school rave Ole Højer Hansen Olga Musik Olien Oliver Lieb Olsen Omni Trio Omnimotion Omnisonus One Little Indian Oophoi Oosh Open Canvas Opus III orchestral Original TranceCritic review Ornament Ostgut Ton Ott Ouragan OutKast Overdream Pantera Pantha Du Prince Paolo Mojo Parlaphone Paul Moelands Paul Oakenfold Paul van Dyk Perfect Stranger Perfecto Perturbator Pet Shop Boys Petar Dundov Pete Namlook Pete Tong Peter Benisch Peter Gabriel Peter Tosh Phonothek Photek Phutureprimitive Phynn PIAS Recordings Pink Floyd PJ Harvey Planet Dog Planet Earth Recordings Planet Mu Planetary Consciousness Plastic City Plastikman Platipus Plump DJs PM Dawn Poker Flat Recordings politics Polydor Polytel pop Popular Records Porya Hatami post-dubstep Prince Prins Thomas Priority Records prog prog psy Progression progressive breaks progressive house progressive rock progressive trance Prolifica Proper Records Prototype Recordings protoU Pryda psy chill psy dub Psy Spy Records psy trance psy-chill psy-dub psychedelia Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia Psychonavigation Psychonavigation Records Psycoholic Psykosonik Public Enemy punk punk rock Pureuphoria Records Purl Push PWL International Quadrophonia Quality Quango Quinlan Road R & S Records R'n'B R&B Rabbit In The Moon Radio Slave Radioactive Radioactive Man Radiohead Raekwon Ralph Lawson RAM Records Randal Collier-Ford Random Review Rank 1 rant RareNoise Records Rascalz Raster-Noton Ratatat Raum Records RCA React Red Jerry reggae remixes Renaissance Reprise Records Resist Music Restless Records Rhino Records Rhys Fulber Ricardo Villalobos Riley Reinhold Rising High Records RnB Roadrunner Records Robert Miles Robert Oleysyck Roc Raida rock rock opera rockabilly rocktronica Roger Sanchez ROIR Rollo Rough Trade Rub-N-Tug Rumour Records Running Back Ruthless Records RZA S.E.T.I. Sabled Sun Salt Tank Salted Music Salvation Music Samim sampling Sanctuary Records Sander van Doorn Sandoz Sarah McLachlan Sash Sasha Scandinavian Records Scann-Tec sci-fi Scott Hardkiss Scott Stubbs Scuba Seán Quinn Segue Sense Sentimony Records Sequential Seraphim Rytm Setrise Seven Davis Jr. Shaded Explorations Shaded Explorer Shadow Records Sharam Shawn Francis shoegaze Si Matthews SideOneDummy Records Signature Records SiJ Silent Season silly gimmicks Silver Age Simon Berry Simon Heath Simon Posford Simple Records Sinden single Sire Records Company Six Degrees Sixeleven Records ska Skin To Skin Slinky Music Sly and Robbie Smalltown Supersound SME Visual Works Inc. Snap Sneijder Snoop Dogg Solar Fields Solaris Recordings Solarstone Solieb Soliquid Solstice Music Europe Soma Quality Recordings Songbird Sony Music Entertainment soul Soul Temple Entertainment Souls Of Mischief Sound Of Ceres Soundgarden Sounds From The Ground soundtrack southern rap southern rock space ambient Space Dimension Controller Space Manoeuvres space synth Spank Rock Special D speed garage Speedy J Spicelab spoken word Spotify Suggestions SPX Digital Squarepusher Squaresoft Stanton Warriors Star Trek Stardust Statrax Stay Up Forever Stephanie B Stephen Kroos Steve Angello Steve Miller Band Steve Porter Stijn van Cauter Stone Temple Pilots Stonebridge Stormloop Stray Gators Street Fighter Studio K7 Stylophonic Sub Focus Sublime Sublime Porte Netlabel Substance Sun Station Sunbeam Sunday Best Recordings Superstition surf rock Sven Väth Swayzak Switch Sylk 130 Symmetry Sync24 Synergy Synkro synth pop synthwave System 7 Tactic Records Tall Paul Tammy Wynette Tangerine Dream Tau Ceti Tayo tech-house tech-step tech-trance Technical Itch techno technobass Technoboy Tectonic Terminal Antwerp Terra Ferma Terry Lee Brown Jr Textere Oris The Beach Boys The Beatles The Black Dog The Brian Jonestown Massacre The Bug The Chemical Brothers The Clash The Council The Cranberries The Digital Blonde The Dust Brothers The Glimmers The Green Kingdom The Grey Area The Hacker The Human League The Irresistible Force The KLF The Misted Muppet The Movement The Music Cartel The Null Corporation The Offspring The Orb The Police The Prodigy The Shamen The Sharp Boys The Sonic Voyagers The Squires The Tea Party The Tragically Hip The Velvet Underground The Wailers The White Stripes themes Thievery Corporation Third Contact Thrive Records Tiefschwarz Tiësto Tiga Tiger & Woods Time Warp Timecode Tobias Todd Terje Tom Middleton Tomita Tommy Boy Ton T.B. Tone Depth Tony Anderson Sound Orchestra Tool Topaz Tosca Toto Touch Tourette Records trance Trancelucent Tranquillo Records Trans'Pact Transformers Transient Records trap Trax Records Trend Trentemøller Tresor tribal Tricky Triloka Records trip-hop Trishula Records Troum Tuff Gong Tunnel Records Turbo Recordings turntablism TUU TVT Records Twisted Records Type O Negative U-God U2 Überzone Ugasanie UK acid house UK Garage Ultimae Ultra Records Umbra Underworld Union Jack United Dairies United DJs Of America Universal Music UOVI Upstream Records Urban Icon Records V2 Vagrant Records Valiska Valley Of The Sun Vangelis Vap Vector Lovers Venetian Snares Venonza Records Verve Records VGM Vice Records Victor Calderone Vince DiCola Virgin Virtual Vault Virus Recordings Visionquest Vitalic vocal trance Wagram Music Warp Records Warren G Water Music Dance Waveform Records Wax Trax Records WEA Weekly Mini-Review White Swan Records William Orbit Willie Nelson world beat world music writing reflections Wu-Tang Clan Wyatt Keusch XL Recordings Yello Yes Youth Youtube Yul Records Zenith ZerO One Zoo Entertainment Zyron ZYX Music µ-Ziq