Friday, October 30, 2015

AstroPilot - Star Walk

Altar Records: 2012

This was the album that got me digging for more AstroPilot. Not because I heard a few tracks off here and concluded Mr. Redko’s jib satisfied my cravings, oh no. That was the case from the few tracks I’d heard on compilations. On a whim though, I fired up the Canadian Amazons to dig for anything on the cheap, and lo’ there were several AstroPilot CDs at reasonable pricing and stock. Of course, his home is Altar Records, a local label (nationally speaking) and thus keeping all those nasty shipping costs well reasonable for yours truly.

And man, did Star Walk come reasonably, with a supposed theme and artwork that I couldn’t resist. Walking on stars? An emblazoned sky filled with the massive fusion factories? Why, this must be what the view within a globular cluster is like! AstroPilot is now officially awesome and, holy cow, look at all those other albums. There’s even a Solar Walk here. Say, is this some kind of series? Is Star Walk a sequel, then? I better buy up these other ones just to be sure.

Turns out Star Walk isn’t a sequel of any sort - Solar Walk already has two of those anyway. Rather, this is a remix album, which confused me for a while. First, because I didn’t even realize it was a remix album, and couldn’t figure out why Miktek was appearing on here, much less various versions of a couple tracks. Yeah, total rookie mistake. Commence with the guffawings.

After that bout of puzzlement lasting all of four hours, another one has persisted ever since: was there really a need for a remix album of AstroPilot’s Solar Walk series? It’s almost entirely focused on droning ambient, a genre that’s either impossible to remix, or lazily restructured as a track with a standard beat added. Not that the music we get with Star Walk is bunk or anything – it’s exceptional as most AstroPilot albums usually are. Nor do I feel unsatisfied, gyped, or cheated in having this, nothing on here coming off redundant or pointlessly wasting my precious listening minutes in a day. What am I even complaining about? I should be elated for more AstroPilot, not ultra nitpicky. Damn this ‘electronic music critic’ precedent I’ve set for myself.

The only complaint I can have is the source material didn’t come across as intended for remix treatment, where mood and tone were the prevailing attributes over hooky melodies. As great of tracks like God’s Channel, In The Middle, Hidden Planet and Between are, I’m hard-pressed in recalling specifics, and hearing variations of them didn’t spark the memory either. Thus, when I play Star Walk, I’m hearing these tracks as they’re presented in this album, not as different versions of existing tunes. That defeats the point of a remix album in my eyes, but again, that’s just being nitpicky for its own sake. All said, I prefer Star Walk to Solar Walk, though Solar Walk 2 remains tops for this series.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

James Horner - Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

Capitol/GNP Crescendo: 1984/1990

Now we’re getting into real geeky territory.

The first two Star Trek movie soundtracks, one can make the argument they surpass the source material, making them essential additions to any gatherer of classic film scores. Jerry Goldsmith, already no slouch in Hollywood, made some of Trek’s most iconic pieces for The Motion Picture, such that he’d recycle many of those themes in the later films he scored. James Horner, a total newcomer in Hollywood, made some of Trek’s most thrilling music for The Wrath Of Khan, such that he’d recycle some of those themes in other films he scored. Either way, both are standouts of the sci-fi soundtrack genre, such that you don’t need to be a Trekkie to appreciate them.

Beyond that, however, we’re getting deep into the realm of fans-only releases. There’s a couple more Trek soundtracks after this one I wouldn’t mind having should I find them on the cheap. Cliff Eidelman’s work for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country recaptured many aspects of Horner’s compositions without stepping on James’ toes much, and Goldsmith turned in another winner with his work on Star Trek: First Contact. Maybe if I were to indulge my inner Trekkie to the utmost, some gathered works from The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine would be nice, but that’s an extreme case.

Instead, I’ve only gone as far as Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, because another LP of James Horner Trek music can’t go wrong. It’s also remarkably different compared to The Wrath Of Khan, if anything because the movie itself is a departure from the previous one. A somber mood permeates much of the film, as can be expected when our hero James T. Kirk is dealing with so much tragedy throughout. Not just the loss of Spock in Khan, but his subsequent rebellion against Starfleet, the death of his son David, the forced destruction of the Enterprise, and the total annihilation of the Genesis Planet, putting a damper on all those ‘life from death’ themes. Oh, um, spoilers, I guess?

Horner’s score reflects many of these moments, seldom going for the thrilling, bombastic orchestrations in Khan. Stealing The Enterprise is the lone exception, giving us a taste of exciting adventure despite the action on screen being rather mundane – it’s a perfect example of a score completely selling a scene, which Horner excelled at even at this early stage of his career.

Since he didn’t have to come up with as many original themes either, Horner experimented a little, mostly in his instrumentations. Klingons may not have been as iconic as Goldsmith’s theme for the classic alien species, but the clanking percussion Horner uses works wonderfully for a culture with a military industrial complex. Alternatively, the soft, meditative exotic drums in The Katra Ritual serves as a strong contrast for the logical Vulcans. And in keeping things human and ‘80s, there’s a bonus synth-pop rendition of the movie’s main theme. Yeah, that was common on soundtracks back then. Don’t ask.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

James Horner - Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (Expanded Edition)

Atlantic/Retrograde Records: 1982/2009

The only Star Trek soundtrack you’re supposed to have, even if you’re not a fan of Star Trek soundtracks. I know, I know. You’re wondering how on Earth can there be that specific a music niche, but check it, yo’. Star Trek is a massive enterprise, finding its way into every form of consumable medium known to the Western world. We obviously think of it as a TV and movie franchise, but all those fancy images don’t come silent, each feature film and weekly episode requiring scores to set the tone and mood. Even with its shoestring budget, The Original Series came up with some iconic pieces everyone recognizes (and lovably mock), and The Next Generation had its moments too. And when you have original scores made for each episode, every series has volumes of music a die-hard Trekkie can nab their hands on. Plus, there's video game soundtracks, audio books, music inspired by Trek, and the list goes on.

However, The Wrath Of Khan is different. This isn't so much a soundtrack for Star Trek II, but rather a soundtrack composed by James Horner that happens to be a Star Trek film. That wasn’t much of a distinction when the movie came out, as Mr. Horner was just starting out in scoring films. A few decades on though, and several famous soundtracks under his belt (Braveheart, Titanic, Glory, Willow, Rocketeer, etc., etc.), we've come to hear certain traits and signifiers in Horner's work. Those exhilarating set pieces, the memorable heart-wrenching melodies, a bounty of leitmotif riches – it’s no small wonder Horner became one of Hollywood’s most famous go-to composers.

The Wrath Of Khan wasn’t Horner first score, but it definitely provided his first opportunity in showcase his talents to a wide audience. The result is one of the most memorable scores ever committed to a sci-fi adventure flick, a remarkable feat considering Horner had Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic Star Trek score hovering just one movie prior (to say nothing of Star Wars). Fortunately for Horner though, he had a much better movie to work with, encouraged to go as bombastic as he wished by director Nicholas Meyer. Swashbuckling music for the Enterprise and her crew, menacing marches of ancient glories for Khan and his cronies, triumphant cues, mournful losses, this score has everything, never skimping on wrenching every last bit of tension and emotion from his compositions. Given the final result, one would think he’d used up every great idea in his repertoire on this movie. Little were we to know he was just getting started.

That’s why this soundtrack is as much a showcase of James Horner as it is a backing score to the best Star Trek movie ever made. When you think of the other films, their scores still sound Star Trek, the composers mostly adhering to the franchise’s needs. Horner, on the other hand, transcended that, and helped lift The Wrath Of Khan well beyond expectations in the process, to a peak that’s yet to be matched.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Jerry Goldsmith - Star Trek: The Motion Picture (20th Anniversary Edition)

Columbia/Sony Legacy: 1979/1998

Still not the geekiest thing in my music collection, though I can't deny it being somewhere in the Top Ten. If I had any of the Star Wars soundtracks, it'd certainly be geekier than that, though not as geeky were the original Battlestar Galactica among my CDs. I guess it's proper-nerdy to claim I've got any Star Trek soundtracks and not Star Wars, but here's the thing: I'll never have to purchase a Star Wars soundtrack. Those compositions are so ubiquitous in geekdom, there's no effort in hearing John Williams' music. Hell, there's a disco medley of Star Wars that occasionally pops up on my work radio – ain't no way you'd hear the same for Star Trek.

In any case, it doesn't matter whether having Star Trek: The Motion Picture is geeky or not, because connoisseurs of sci-fi soundtracks agree Jerry Goldsmith's score is among the best out there. When you think Star Trek, you almost inevitably think of that main theme, a triumphant piece of music, ready to explore the cosmos in the name of adventure and discovery. Of course, it helps they reused the theme for The Next Generation, all but assuring its permanent place in pop culture, but The Motion Picture was its debut, and likely the only thing most folks recall of the movie. That, and the fact it was a slog of special effects over-indulgence. But hey, it’s one of the only Trek movies to go super-hard sci-fi, and I kinda’ appreciate for that, even if I only ever watch it on the laziest of rainy afternoons.

Before I got this soundtrack though, another reason I would throw the movie on was to bask in the wonderfully alien sounds of Craig Huxley’s Blaster Beam, an eighteen-foot long monstrosity of piano strings, aluminum, magnets, and artillery shell (yes, really). Huxley was already making incidental sounds and clips for Trek related media, but when he showed the instrument off to Goldsmith, the composer instantly knew he had his signature sound for the movie's antagonist. And a good thing too, the Blaster Beam injecting a remarkable amount of omnipresent menace and character to nothing more than a lot of special effects and a Voyager probe prop.

Some feel Goldsmith's score was wasted on The Motion Picture, but it's honestly one of the few shining positives of the movie. All those scenes of flying through space, flying through space clouds, flying over impossibly giant probes, and an inconsequential love story would have fallen flatter than Saturn’s rings without the music. Goldsmith captured the mystery and awe of exploration and the unknown as best as anyone could for a hard sci-fi movie, and is worth a listen on those merits.

Thrown in this 20th anniversary collector’s edition is the old Inside Star Trek record, where Gene Roddenberry conducts interviews with cast members and gives lectures. It’s pure Trekkie fluff, with a curious take away: Mr. Roddenberry’s fascination with sex in sci-fi. Ah, so those mini-skirts weren’t standard issue after all.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Stanton Warriors - The Stanton Session (Original TC Review)

XL Recordings: 2001

(2015 Update:
Another TranceCritic review with an overlong back history of a genre and scene. I wish we hadn't resorted to that so often, giving the benefit of the doubt to our readers they wouldn't need such info, but perhaps it couldn't be helped for a website supposedly dedicated to the coverage of all things trance-tastic. I'm sure readers knew what breaks are, but given the sickly state that scene was in during the mid-'00s, a little knowledge dropped couldn't hurt. And just how dire was things looking for breaks at the time?
The Stanton Session was one of TC's first reviews for the genre, coming about two years after the site launched, and only covered by way of a Random Review selection at that. Tough times, though it's seen some rebound in recent years.

Persevering through the dark days are the Stanton Warriors, quietly releasing a couple more DJ mix CDs on the market, then finally getting in on that LP action this decade. Heck, they released a new album just this past month,
Rebel Bass. Hmm, how does that sound, I wonder. *hops over to the Spotifies* OH MY GOD, THEY'VE GONE DEEP HOUSE! ...because of course they would. Everyone with ties to UK Garage has.)


IN BRIEF: Bumpin’ breaks from Britain.

Dominic B and Mark Yardly - or Stanton Warriors to their oodles of fans - are a hot commodity again. No, wait... They’ve been a hot commodity in the breaks scene for years now and never cooled off. Rather, they are an even hotter commodity now, with 2006 proving to be a strong year for the Warriors. Chalk it up to being given the reigns to one of Fabric’s DJ mixes, gaining them exposure beyond their core scene again. It’s about time too, but a breaks scene that’s had trouble moving on from the ‘nu-skool’ era has left it difficult for them to gain wider recognition (is it even still regarded as ‘nu’? Why not just call it Brit Breaks?). Since some folks are just cluing into the Stanton sound, let’s bring them up to speed.

(Note: While I’ve looked into the history of Britain’s breaks scene, my perspective is probably still skewed by my being North American, so no blame on any inconsistencies. If you want an opinion from someone who lives in the UK, go bug J’ about it)

At the turn of the century, while trance and house dominated UK superclubs, the renegades of the rave scene were jumping on new forms of breakbeat. Nu-skool, 2-step, garage (speed and UK), and probably a bunch more micro-genres - ultimately if it encouraged b-boy shenanigans, it was the sound of the underground. Of course, the majors soon noted and the mass-market of this sound began, where originators were quickly separated from imitators. Stanton Warriors were such originators.

Already accomplished DJs for a good chunk of the ‘90s, the duo soon began producing material of their own, some of which often made it annoyingly difficult for journalists to tidily lump into existing sub-genres of UK breaks. The reason was simple: Dominic and Mark drew influences from multiple sources, crafting their own unique sound in a growing music scene. Their DJ mix The Stanton Session was their first and expressed their manifesto as fine as any DJ mix could.

(Note 2: There’s actually another version of this release with additional tracks, but since I’ve never heard it I’m going to only discuss this one here... although I will mention it’s amusing to see the liner notes talk about tracks that aren’t even included)

It starts out friendly enough, with some rather commercial takes on the then very popular ‘gair-ehge’ sound in London. But whereas other DJs would often make use of top hits, the Stantons throw their own spin on it. Of course, their rugged remix of Basement Jaxx’ Jump ‘N’ Shout is a fine way to set the pace, but when they throw down a rap acappella over more typical tracks, you quickly realize there’s going to be more to this mix than meets the ear. There’s just something about hearing Busta Rhymes going “one time for your motha’fuckin’ mind, c’mon” over a silly bloopy bassline that makes perfect sense. Mr. Reds’ offering certainly would be a ridiculous track without Flipmode Squad there in support.

As the mix moves along, tracks come and go with good pacing for a breaks set, easing out of the garagey beginnings to delve into some fresh funk. Most of them don’t hang around for much more than three minutes, plenty of time to establish a rhythm and hook. What raises the notch of this mix though, is how diverse these tracks are; each track has a unique flavor to it that allows it to stand out from the pack. And unless you’ve completely memorized this set, each follow-up will surprise you in how different it is from what came before. Yet the Warriors hold things together with crafty skill so things flow seamlessly.

Eventually, our DJing duo lead us into some deep trancey breaks that-

*Dodges things thrown at him by b-boys*

What!? Oh, sorry. I forgot. B-boys hate to have anything of their music called ‘trance’. Fine then. Progressive breaks. Happy now?

Anyhow, the Warriors throw in some progressive breaks, which is yet another intriguing road they’ve taken us on. After all, why do breaks always have to be about bustin’ out moves? It’s nice to hear something more atmospheric after a good work-out. This also allows them to segue into the mellow outro of their mix, where r’n’b vocals and jazzy sounds come into play (their track Da Antidote exempt). UK garage, of the ‘deep house’ variety, I guess. It’s alright for what it is, and serves its purpose fine enough, but isn’t nearly as thrilling to listen to as the rest of this mix has been. But it does come at the end, so it’ll wind you down nicely.

Something else to mention is the additional vocals provided by MC Moose. Like any good MC on a mix disc, he displays necessary leadership to help lift a track to something better, but also welcomed restraint when songs can carry the load themselves. And, aside from the few times he needlessly intones “this is the Stanton sound” (what, the album cover wasn’t a big enough clue?), his lyrics remain fresh throughout. Stand-up job.

So, yeah. Ace mix, f’sure. If you’re a fan of breaks but missed it the first time around, don’t hesitate to check this out, especially if you’re just discovering Stanton Warriors in the last year or so. If not, well, you should check this out anyway. The Stanton Session has held up remarkably well and, while it may not make you a die-hard b-boy, it’s still an enjoyable disc to throw on.

Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2007. © All rights reserved

Saturday, October 24, 2015

OutKast - Stankonia

Arista: 2000

Wu-Tang Clan may have opened my ears to the possibilities of what hip-hop could sound like, but OutKast's Stankonia obliterated whatever biased barriers I had left. Not that my reaction was much different from everyone else who nabbed a copy of this album, Big Boi and André 3000's fourth LP lauded for its fearless genre-bending music by even the most cagey of rap veterans. Folks in the know were already hype to OutKast's potential though, even if the duo continuously exceeded expectations at this point in their career. I was coming in raw, with no knowledge of their history within the Atlanta scene. All I knew about Southern rap was whatever No Limit Records was churning out, and Stankonia sounded nothing like Master P. Then again, Stankonia sounded like nothing else on the market period.

For one thing, this album was among the first, if not the first, of major records in American hip-hop to inject the breakneck pace of drum ‘n’ bass rhythms into the scene. I’m sure some UK act had done the deed prior, or at least lyrically conscious MCs were spittin’ verses overtop Roni Size cuts, but music intended for raves was well outside the interest of this continent’s ghetto regions. Figures, then, it’d take these OutKast types to make that bold step into 155BPM territory with B.O.B. and smaller track ? (yes, it’s called that). Big Boi and Mr. 3000 weren’t satisfied just aping some rhythms though, making use of their newly acquired studio to indulge in all sorts of electronic sounds and productions. Red Velvet is pure electro, Snappin’ & Trappin’ goes weirdo electro (wasn’t really called trap yet), Gangsta Sh*t blasts heavy southern bass funk, Slum Beautiful fears no time signatures, and I’ll Call Before I Come tinkers with a drum machine like a toy box in Prince’s hands. And don’t forget all those funky Moog worms about So Fresh, So Clean, Xplosion, and Stanklove.

Stankonia was also where André started feeling the soul-croon itch, which initially gave his chums pause whether they were going to lose his rap talents. Instead, Big Boi let him run with it, and the result was some of OutKast’s most endearing songs ever, including their first major hit with Ms. Jackson. There’s also freak-out rock with Gasoline Deams, P-funk soul with Toilet Tisha, salsa with Humble Mumble, and plenty of quirky dalliances within multiple interludes. It’s funny how the more traditional hip-hop cuts with Spaghetti Junction and We Luv Deez Hoez, while fine enough productions, are almost forgotten amongst the genre bending going on. Well, no, you’ll never forget the hook in We Luv Deez Hoez.

Listening to Stankonia, it’s easy to understand why many OutKast fans were hesitant in embracing Speakerboxxx / The Love Below. This album finds the duo seemingly at the threshold of exploring amazing new approaches to hip-hop, whereas the latter, though a passion-project, was a step back. The relative lack of anything since has only made hearts grow fonder for this stank.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Salt Tank - ST 3

Internal: 1994

Salt Tank will forever only be known for one track, which is a shame because they did put out some solid UK techno and trance back in the day. Eugina though, that got them their break, such that they couldn’t escape its shadow – not when branching out from the Balearic vibes everyone adored them for, nor when they tried cashing in on it with retreads. Following a slew of shiny year 2000 remixes of Eugina, David Gates and Malcom Stanners disappeared after the turn of the millennium, going into relative stasis for over a decade. Now they’ve re-emerged with a couple trance singles for Solarstone’s retro-uplifting Pure Trance print.

We’re dealing with the beginning though, or at least as close to it as we can. The Salt Tank story goes all the way back to the heady days of UK rave, where they self-released a few mostly forgotten records. Still, they must have sensed the tools were there to go far in the business, as these singles were given simple, sequential titles (ST 1, ST 2). I also sense some inspiration from Orbital on the parts of Misters Gates and Stanners, as soon enough they had a clear winner in Eugina for ST 3. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a rip-off of Lush, Halcyon + On + On, or other Orbital ‘blissy techno’ hybrids, but it does borrow from the same template. Take a whispy female vocal, bring in a few bleepy hooks, add a catchy guitar strum (that one’s from Jam & Spoon!), and mix it into a pleasant Balearic vibe. Boom, instant classic, and one that would be canned by Paul Oakenfold forever after.

As ST 3 is essentially the Eugina EP, it has a few remixes included, though all given original track titles for maximum confusion. Pacific Diva may as well be the extended club mix of Eugina, while Waimea Wilderness is the ambient dub version, and real dull at that. Too sparse, too under-produced, and a thumping kick emulating a heartbeat does not a captivating piece of dub make. That said, all the sonic isolation does benefit the Tori Amos sample, if you know its original context from Me And A Gun (you’ll never hear Eugina the same way again, trust). Best of the lot though is Sargasso Sea, with proto psy-dub act Astralasia giving the rub, taking the Balearic vibes of the original and running with it for a sublime slice of chill-out ambience.

For some reason, Salt Tank rescued their oldie tune Charged Up (I'm hearing Orbital again) and added it to ST 3, including an ambient dub remix from Zion Train called Charged In Zion Canyon. And in the middle ofST 3 is Clone, a pure techno workout in the CJ Bolland vein, though done by The Advent in this case. Wait, did Advent co-produce this with Salt Tank, or is this a remix of an uncredited track? Curse these limited two-decade old liner notes.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Various - Spring

Altar Records: 2013

If DJ Zen had fashioned his label’s Elements series after chemical elements rather than classical elements, he could have kept it running nigh on forever. That’s already ninety-four natural volumes to work with, and plenty more room for made-up ones following that. But nay, the classical version is what he settled for, and thus was forced to wrap up the series after but five proper volumes (and a sixth bonus). The compilation market doesn’t sit fallow though, any good psy-chill leaning print needing a promotional outlet for their roster’s non-album material. And thus it came to pass that DJ Zen settled on possibly the third most obvious mystical theme to center a new series on, that of the seasons. *sigh* You make good music, Altar, but really could use some help in the ‘creative compilations’ department.

Seasons it is though, with the series’ concept boiling down to producers providing tunes that conjure feelings, imagery, moods and the like of each volume. Appropriately enough, we start things off with the season ancients once considered the beginning of a yearly cycle following the vernal equinox, Spring. Ooh, I suspect we’ll get ample amounts of lively field recordings like running water and birds in song, or maybe sampled ethnic chants of far-flung tribes praying to pagan deities for fertile crops and frisky love in the air. Um, no, there’s not much of that at all. Tickle me… kinda’ disappointed? Sure, what I typed out sounds like some hokey New Age fluff, but Altar’s always had a touch of that regardless (that cover art!), and it’s never stopped me from getting my vibe on with their output.

Instead, Spring sticks to the prog-psy stylee for much of its runtime. Fine with me, as you’ve got a solid cast of Altar regulars chipping in to get this series up and running: AstroPilot, Cabeiri, Lab’s Cloud, Akshan, Asura, Suduaya, plus newcomer Reasonandu, and Dense of GMO vs Dense microfame. And yet, for much of this compilation, it doesn’t feel like I’m playing a collection of Altar tracks – nay, the groove I’m getting here is oddly reminiscent of Iboga Records from a decade ago. Granted, much of it is in the slower style the psy-chill chaps like going, but those sparse arrangements, plucks of dubbed-out synth, and churning, thunking rhythms are remarkably minimal for a label more known for their widescreen productions. A few tracks do break the mold – opener Peaceful Heart from Reasonandu And Adrian Enescu is what I had in mind for this compilation, while the next string of cuts from Dense, Suduaya, and AstroPilot play more to Altar’s style. Elsewhere, Asura provides one of his standard prog-psy productions, including that crisp kick, and those sidechain abused pads. The rest though, man, are we certain Perfect Stranger didn’t pop by the Altar office and sneak in some of his roster instead?

Spring is still a solid collection of prog-psy, just not quite what I was expecting. Will future seasons bring the unexpected too?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Distant System - Spiral Empire (Original TC Review)

Celestial Dragon Records: 2008

(2015 Update:
Somehow, this album grows more captivating with each playthrough, and believe me, it's been playthroughed a pile. I still can't figure out why though. Yeah, the whole space idea is pure catnip, and Mr. Smith crafted an excellent take on the theme, but it's not a unique concept, cosmic music being around since at least Holst's
The Planets. And yet, I'm hard pressed to hear anything quite like Distant System, and believe me again,it's not for a lack of trying. For all the psy chill and space ambient I've consumed from his peers, none have replicated the evocative sounds and composition found on Spiral Empire. This is a style Mr. Smith has made his own, and by keeping Distant System in relative cryostasis since this album came out, has maintained a mysterious allure over the project.

This review obviously makes some huge assumptions over Distant System's future, and could have done without the introductory paragraph's broad generalizations about electronic music trends. Guess I was justifying why space themes were so critical to the music's development over the decades, even though that honestly wasn't the case. Really, it's little more than reasoning for my clear bias towards the stuff. Take it for what you will.)



IN BRIEF: Space is the place.

When electronic music made the big crossover towards the end of the ‘90s, it abandoned many of the themes that defined it earlier in the decade. Justifiable or not, trying to market the music to the mainstream would undoubtedly be difficult if such concepts like extreme psychedelia, cyberpunk, big gay happy fun, or jungle militias crossed over. Oh, and space exploration too. Granted, the cosmos still generates inspiration for many electronic producers but not the degree it once did. You’d have whole albums and projects built around such themes in the early ‘90s (Biosphere, Pete Namlook, Spicelab... to name just a few classic examples). I can only assume the reason for this is a sociological one: the mainstream's acceptance of electronic music replacing egged-headed themes like futurism and technological possibilities with popular ones like relationships and trendiness. This isn’t a sociology paper, though, so I’ll spare you any further ruminations on the subject.

Still, it is nice to see there remains room for such albums out there, even if they now tend to sit on the fringes. With a little luck, however, Tyler Smith (aka: Distant System) will get more exposure with this album. More known for his psy-dub project Androcell, Ty-

Eh? You haven’t even heard of Androcell? Oh, right... Psy-dub, that eternally neglected genre of music by the media (unless it’s Shpongle). Heh, fringe music seldom gets a break, does it? You never know, though... it could become trendy the way other fringe music like dub techno and nu-disco have... maybe.

Anyhow, Tyler Smith. He’s been making music for a while, though not in any major capacity; it’s only in recent years his output’s gained momentum. And while being on Hong Kong based Celestial Dragon Records may not lift him out of obscurity, perhaps his newfound association with increasingly ace downtempo label Ultimae will give him a little more exposure (more on this pairing in a bit).

This here album titled Spiral Empire provides a strong case for him to deserve such exposure. Conceptually, it isn’t innovative, as spacey music has been around for years. Yet Smith’s production is remarkably captivating, drawing upon the things that make the cosmos so intriguing to begin with. Synths and soundscapes paint vast, lonely vistas, where you can’t help but feel small and alone amongst the emptiness that is the universe. As bleak as it may seem on the surface, though, subtle melodies and gripping rhythms of varying tempos create a sense of wonderment and awe as you bear witness to it all, providing human humbleness in the face of something so inconceivably limitless.

Okay, okay, I’d better reign in the hyperbole, lest this review turn into an unintentional fanboy gush; it honestly isn’t quite as rapturous as I’m describing here. However, Smith’s sonic portrait of the cosmos truly is a lovely listen. The opening half of Spiral Empire wonderfully flows from track to track, with pleasing harmonies and pulsating effects weaving about desolate atmospherics; all the while icy-cool beats and throbbing basslines lazily guide things along like some kind of interstellar space cruiser. Smith doesn’t appear to be in any kind of hurry to get anywhere, quite content to casually take in the sparse scenery as he builds his songs.

Heck, this album practically plays as one long song as it is. Once the track Outer Rim hits, the pace briskly picks up, and even makes use of hooks that are more urgent in delivery (if you can call strangled ominous strings hooks); really, it’s about as close to the kind of old school trance the likes of Oliver Lieb used to produce that I’ve heard in some time, and marks the clear climax of Spiral Empire. Bridging ambient sequence Cloud Nebula and sublime melodically-glitchy closer Astromech Starport are perfect pieces of music for the album’s coda.

About the only track that seems at odds with this album’s running theme is, unsurprisingly, Smith’s remix of Time Circles. This is a track produced by Ultimae regulars H.U.V.A. Network (Magnus Birgersson and Vincent Villuis, or Solar Fields and Aes Dana), and the more earthly ethereal tone of many Ultimae releases stands in clear contrast to the rest of the album. Despite clear production techniques that has defined Distant System thus far, Smith can’t hide the fact this is still an out-of-place song. Oh, it’s fine and all, just comes off as a slight detour from everything else. I have to mention, though, that being buddies with the folks at Ultimae has paid off for Smith, getting a final mastering of Spiral Empire that is, frankly, exquisite to the ears.

Still, if the notion of space music strikes you as unappealing, then this album probably won’t be for you, as its theme does remain singular throughout. For those with insatiable curiosity of the cosmos and an ear for the out-worldly, though, Spiral Empire is a superb sonic treat.

Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2008. © All rights reserved

Dub Pistols - Speakers And Tweeters

Sunday Best Recordings: 2007

Dub Pistols were a name I recall always seeing around at the turn of the millennium, but seldom heard much of. Yeah, there was that remix for Banco de Gaia's I Love Baby Cheesy, and I'm fairly certain I aired out their rubs for Freestylers and The Crystal Method. Glancing at their other remix credits on Lord Discogs though, and lo there are a ton more for the likes of Korn, Limp Bizkit, Filter, and Rob Zombie. Wait, didn't these guys do big beat and dub back in the day? Why were they palling around with nu-metal noggers? Deep sixing their career for a while it seems, nearly a half-decade gap of material from Dub Pistols between those early days to where we find them with Speakers And Tweeters.

Or maybe they were busy figuring things out (and a stable label) for themselves. Their debut Point Blank may have rode the Fatboy Slim train to some minor success, but their year 2000 follow-up Six Million Ways To Die found more favour with its reggae roots and dub stylings. If Dub Pistols wanted a successful relaunch of their career in the mid-‘00s, the wise course of action was keeping to those strengths.

Why, then, does this album sound so watered down and tepid? Instead of beats with some grit and vibes for the rude bwoy heads, we get sunny reggae and ample amounts of ska. Hell, the lead single for this was a cover of Blondie’s Rapture, and a rather tame go at that. I’m getting serious déjà-vu with other tunes too (Gave You Time’s a dead ringer for a Moby song, and I’m almost certain Cruise Control is style-biting a long-forgotten ‘80s electro record). Some tracks work out well for the ‘fun times in summertime’ vibe, Running From The Thoughts and Open having a decent bounce going for them. So much of Speakers And Tweeters comes off like reggae for beginners though, a palatable starter’s dish for those who are looking to move beyond Bob Marley’s Legend.

It’s like Dub Pistols realized this music did big business for a brief while in the late ‘90s, so maybe a market remains. For sure I could throw this on at a BBQ and folks would amicably nod their head while it plays out. Compared to their other releases though, Speakers And Tweeters is a letdown. Such a shame, because there are glimmers of what these guys can bring (spaced-out opening cut Speed Of Light, proper dub reggae Stronger). Were they aiming for more commercial appeal? If so, it paid off, with three albums released since this one, including The Return Of The Pistoleros just this year. And taking a quick gander at those, the ol’ Dub Pistols charm is intact, tunes finding ways of keeping with the times (dubstep! ragga jungle!) while sticking to the roots and dub that worked so well for them way back when. Check out those albums instead if you need an introduction to this group.

Monday, October 19, 2015

OutKast - The Love Below

Arista: 2003

Of course the reason a high percentage of folks bought OutKast's last (and final?) proper album was for that one song on Mr. Benjamin's solo effort, The Love Below. It was such a hit, such a smash, such a pop culture revelation, it turned André 3000 into a superstar overnight, the video serving as much a spotlight on his many stage talents as anything music related. It probably could have launched a semi-successful solo career had Hollywood not lured him away for so long, ushering in a new era of rappers forgoing the standard hip-hop beats of the day for more funk, soul, jazz, and blues fusions. Where you could croon to R&B while mixing in electro synths while sticking to a conceptual theme for the full eighty minutes a CD offered. Where you could be as quirky as you could go, all the while exposing a sensitive side almost unheard of in the world of rap. Come to think of it, hip-hop has come around to such developments in recent years, though most keep pointing to Kanye West as the spearhead, The Love Below practically forgotten these days.

Maybe hip-hop just wasn't ready for it. For sure they didn't mind influences from Prince and Funkadelic making their ways into their jams, but only for a track or three, and always with the sounds of the street kept intact. This was a full-on, take-it or leave-it indulgence, and save a few of those killer, undeniable earworms OutKast could always be counted upon, many left it in the rear view. Even those who only came for Hey Ya!, knowing nothing of the group's history in the Atlanta rap scene, were challenged by the oddities André 3000 wilfully filled The Love Below with. Lord knows when folks bring up this double-LP, they always speak of Speakerboxxx with more fondness, finding Big Boi’s ode to Southern hip-hop the easier to take of the two.

Listening to The Love Below a decade on, and all that lovely hindsight firmly reminding us this could end up being the final OutKast album, it makes things much easier to appreciate what André 3000 was shooting for here. For sure you can mix in some askew blues moments (Take Off Your Cool, Prototype) with your broken-beatnik electro (A Life In The Day Of Benjamin André, Pink & Blue). Or why not some frantic jazzstep (Spread, My Favorite Things) with classic jazz vibes (Love Hater, She’s Alive). Honestly, The Love Below sounds like Mr. Benjamin is exercising every muse he never fully explored in his years of OutKast, all in one go. The whole ‘love’ concept of the album is just something to hang all these disparate tunes on, and while it’s all interesting to hear, Lord help us if a b-side version of this is ever revealed. It probably didn’t need to run the full eighty minutes, though I cannot deny being intrigued by every next track as ol’ André reveals another of his many tastes.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

OutKast - Speakerboxxx

Arista: 2003

To write about OutKast’s double-LP opus Speakerboxxx / The Love Below is ultimately an exercise in doubling one’s word count, the two ‘solo albums’ so radically different from each they demand divided attention. Fortunately for me, I’ve long set a precedent of reviewing individual CDs of multi-disc releases, and if there’s ever an album that needs this, it’s OutKast’s technical last album (to date). No, I don’t count Idlewild, the soundtrack merely one part of that project’s main focus: making a movie about OutKast, set in an old-timey ragtime era, because of course they would.

Before venturing into Big Boi’s album, here’s a bit of forgotten trivia first. When the double-disc came out, the CD you’d see upon opening the tray was André 3000’s The Love Below. This, despite Speakerboxxx long considered the CD1 due to its position in the main title, being the advertised front cover, and the name everyone automatically associates with this release. I bring this up because it points to one of the idiosyncrasies that made OutKast such a unique entity within hip-hop’s landscape. They thrived on dashing expectations, whether something big and bold like genre fusions on their albums, to something simple like tricking hip-hop heads into playing the disc they wouldn’t care for if they weren’t paying attention.

Speakerboxxx though, they’d be totally fine with, especially all those trunk rattling Southern bass jams. Big Boi always was the more ‘traditional’ hip-hop part of OutKast, and with a full LP to indulge himself, unleashes plenty of beats for the booty and body, and tons of rhymes for the lyrical heads. Ghetto Musick, Tomb Of The Boom, Flip Flop Rock, and Last Call have no problem getting rowdy and crunk for the sake of it, while funky soul worms its way in Unhappy, Bowtie, The Way You Move, and Reset. And though Dré 3000 doesn’t do much in the way of rhyming on Speakerboxxx, he does lend his production to a few esoteric cuts (Ghetto Musick, War, Church), bringing this CD as close to the vibe most point as vintage OutKast.

Not that Big Boi lacks lyrical back-up without his partner in crime afoot. Mr. Patton has plenty on his mind to spit, getting a few street tales and perspectives out on War, Knowing and The Rooster. He’s not hesitant in calling in some outside support too, Speakerboxxx featuring one of OutKast’s biggest guest spots ever with Jay-Z dropping in along with your usual plethora of Southern rap names (Killer Mike, Goodie Mob, Ludacris, Lil’ Jon & The East Side Boyz). At a time when crunk was primed for its takeover of all things hip-hop, it’s quite refreshing hearing such bass heavy music with some effort put into lyrics. Hell, Last Call with Lil’ Jon is probably one of the best non Lil’ Jon-produced Lil’ Jon tracks out there (pst, it was André 3000 at the console there too). Oh, the wonders we could have visited upon had OutKast kept going this route in the ‘00s.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Der Dritte Raum - Spaceglider

Virgin/Ultra Records: 1998/1999

Of course I’d have Spaceglider in my collection (or Raumgleiter to the fine folks of Germanland). And I know what you’re thinking: I got this totally because of the cover, having no prior knowledge of who Der Dritte Raum is or even the famous tunes that came bundled within the album. Please, like I wouldn’t recognize “The Third Room” from his Harthouse days. Nor could I miss the omnipresent hits Hale Bopp and Polarstern, the two subdued hybrid anthems finding their way into numerous compilations, DJ sets, and the like. And why not, both tunes serving as perfect pieces for when a trance DJ wanted to go a little techno, or a techno DJ wanted to go a little trance – though it was almost always the former case. So naturally, upon discovering Der Dritte Raum was getting a new album out care of the Almighty Virgin (and promoted by Ultra in my lands), you bet I ordered a copy despite currently living in the hinterlands of Canada. I mean, just look at that cover! How could it not be cool?

Okay, buying Spaceglider truly was nothing but an impulse purchase based on nifty sci-fi artwork – at least I’m consistent. Having no actual prior knowledge of who Der Dritte Raum was wasn’t stopping my curiosity’s need to be sated. I had a feeling I’d be in safe hands though, the ordering promo blurb promising there’d be trance on this disc. At a time when trance had long abandoned its early cosmic themes and krautrock influences, seeing an album that implied some of those attributes within (Starship! Astronauts! German words!) gave me some hope I’d get the goods.

So imagine my fear upon hearing opening track Infrarot, a quirky bit of electro funk featuring a squawky sound like a robot beatboxing. Oh dear, what had I stumbled upon? True, genre dalliances was something Der Dritte Raum loved throwing about, even going proper-electro with Subraum and tech-house with a touch of jazzy swing in Tagnachtlied at the end of Spaceglider, all with mint results. Man though, was I fearing I’d landed in some IDM kitsch after that first cut.

Fear not, 1999 Sykonee, for it’s not long before Andreas Krüger is bringing all sorts of groovy techno and trance. As this is a mostly continuously mixed album, many tracks serve the needs for proper builds to Polarstern and Hale Bopp in that distinct, stripped-back, punctual Der Dritte Raum style, but always having enough strength to stand on their own too. Überdruck works a bit of acid funk, Irrfahrt bends its head down for some minimal action, and Lava fears not soaring into space on acid bliss. The main Spaceglider mix ends with more traditional techno before moving onto the aforementioned quirk tunes, making for a tidy album overall.

And quite a surprising one at that, Spaceglider resolutely old-school for a time when anything trance leaning demanded bigger and bolder. This would have been brilliant for 1994, but sounds bolder for 1998.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Various - Space Jazz

Quango Records: 2001

Space Jazz was another of the re-launched Quango Records' many quirky new compilations featuring future-leaning examples of classic musical styles. This, above all the others, probably piqued my interest the most, because space music, obviously. I was willing to let go of my bias against traditional jazz if it had cool cosmic sounds floating about. Come to think of it, this was probably the first jazzy CD I got that-

Eh? What's that, Lord Discogs? You demand I search your All-Knowing Archives for Space Jazz? But I have the CD right here in my hand. I can bring it up with a quick run through My Collection no problem. Well, if you insist. You do Know All, after all.

Hello, what's this? Another Space Jazz, by... L. Ron Hubbard? Wait, the Scientology guy? This can’t be... Oh my. This is... HAHAHAHA! Oh dear me, this looks awful! An actual soundtrack for Battlefield Earth, made in 1982, intended to be played while reading the original book. This must be a prank, a piss-take, a... Well I’ll be damned, it’s totally sincere. It even features ‘cutting edge’ electronic music technology, utilizing the Fairlight CMI for its compositions. Man, you just know this is gonna’ sound all kind of chintzy, like the worst aspects of easy-listening jazz with hopeless dated synth sounds. Are there any samples online? *searches* Oh my God! It’s more hilarious than I could have imagined! Brilliant! And I thought the Travolta movie was the worst possible interpretation of Battlefield Earth. Ahahaha, hooo! Dear me, what a riot. Bless thee, Lord Discogs, for preserving such artefacts of bountiful ridiculousness.

I apologize for that derailment. Sometimes though, you discover something so wonderful, so precious, so pure, it must be shared with all, even to the short-term detriment of a review. Like, I know I’ll never own L. Ron Hubbard’s Space Jazz, so why not do this while I have the chance, eh? Besides, it’s far more interesting than Quango’s Space Jazz. This compilation’s actually pretty darn good, but the internet’s all about spotlighting the obscure and nonsensical detritus of history.

What was my original angle anyway? Oh yeah. Quango’s Space Jazz being the first time I started giving nu-jazz some appreciation – at least, when not tied to Ninja Tune. The space theme was an instant hook for yours truly, figuring I’d hear some neat pads sounds and Moog synths among all the usual instrumental dexterity common of the scene. What I didn’t expect was something far dubbier with opener Chocolate Elvis from Tosca, and Boozoo Bajou on the rub. Then again, it was my first exposure to the Richard Dorfmeister project, so it makes all the sense now.

By and large though, Quango’s Space Jazz goes for trippy psychedelia throughout, featuring cuts from Meat Katie, Love TKO, Akasha, and Horsemilk. It also gets downright trip-hoppy in parts (Forward’s Modern Crimes, Solid Doctor’s Faustian Bargain), which isn’t all that spacey, but what the heck, I’ll take it.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sync24 - Source

Ultimae Records: 2007

First, I can't believe I neglected making the Carbon Based Lifeforms connection with my previous Sync24 review three years hence. Well, no, that's not true – I can believe it, because the honest truth is I had yet to explore CBL's discography proper-like. I knew there was a connection since Lord Discogs told me Daniel Ringström’s name was involved with both, but cluing in on the tasty prospects of a solo project from one of Ultimae’s top tier acts eluded my powers of clairvoyance. For, at the time of writing about Comfortable Void, I had no idea CBL were one of Ultimae’s top tier acts. I simply lacked the frame of reference to appreciate them as such (re: had yet to hear Hydroponic Garden).

Second, even with all this newfound knowledge and extra apperception for the Sync24 moniker and Comfortable Void, I remain astounded by Mr. Ringström’s first album under the guise. Not for any sort of musical dexterity or super amazing killer-combos of rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic mastery that shakes me to my calcaneus. Quite the contrary, Source is a very subdued record, relentlessly calm and quiet, with so much space between the sounds it feels like I’m Ant-Man lost in a post-modern museum. And Ultimae’s released plenty of ambient and micro-dub CDs of this sort the past few years, but Source came out in 2007! The label was still highly dedicated to expansive, widescreen mixdowns, two of their biggest releases in Asura’s Life² and Solar Fields’ Earthshine coming out later that year. You’d occasionally hear such minimalist music on Ultimae’s compilations, but almost always serving as opening tone setters or closing denouements. Aside from the groovy slice of acid prog-chill White Pixels, Ringström never lets his music rise above a simmer in liveliness or volume on Source.

It’s dub techno that encourages losing oneself in small details between the soft beats and distant pads, using some of Ultimae’s more familiar markers as guides: psy dub in Cryptobiosis, ambient techno in Biota and Mborg, moody evocative ambience in Walk On Spheres, Replicant and Suspended Animation, and heart-melting passages in From A To A and Woodland. Plus, something new was added with Memloop: dubstep! Okay, it’s closer to the Burial brand of future garage, what with those shuffly rhythms and deep sub-harmonic bass. Memloop is also so minimally produced, it barely has any relation to the genre Hyperdub was getting famous for in 2007. Yet, here it is, well before most everyone else started jumping on the dubstep bandwagon, and provided by one of Ultimae’s most unassuming records up to that point.

Turns out, the rest of Ultimae was feeling what Source did, many future releases growing ever more minimalist, dubbed out, and sparse in sound, all the while maintaining their lush production standard. It’s quite ironic then, that the follow-up Sync24 album would go in an opposite route from that, making tracks with Oomph to them. Oh, Daniel, must you go so iconoclastic with your label mates?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

ACE TRACKS: February 2013

And I’m finally done getting through albums starting with some form of “sound” at the start of its title. Who’d have thought so many musicians would associated their music with sounds, eh? And yet, even after going through a dozen of them, that’s still but a blip in the behemoth that is all of ‘S’ – we’re a long ways before getting out of this letter, my friends.

Speaking of lengthy runs of letters, anyone remember ‘E’? Man, that was a beast too, eating up nearly two month’s worth of reviews way back when. I also feel February 2013 was something of a turning point for this blog. It marked the half-year point, plus the 100th review too (what am I at now, 750?), convincing myself I could keep going at the clip I was without serious fatigue or disinterest creeping in. More importantly though, it got a lot of big albums from Very Important Artists into the archives, including BT, Prodigy, Underworld, Moby, and Madonna. Also, remarkably, this month was the first point of entry for two names that would come to fill many a month with their releases: Neil Young and Wu-Tang Clan. Wouldn’t surprise me if folks thought I got all my rock and hip-hop fixes from Pink Floyd and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony prior to that.


Full track list here.

MISSING ALBUMS:
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Various - Evolution Of New Sounds
Various - Euro Dance Pool, Volume 1
Various - Euro Dance Pool, Volume 2
BT - ECSM
Erol Alkan - One Louder

Percentage Of Hip-Hop: 33%
Percentage Of Rock: 5%
Most “WTF?” Track: Busta Rhymes featuring Mystikal - Iz They Wildin Wit Us & Getting Rowdy Wit Us (because like Hell you’ll keep up with the words they spittin’)

BT’s ECSM is not on Spotify. How is BT’s ECSM not on Spotify? Every other BT album is on Spotify. Okay, neither is that drone ambient neo-classical album Nuovo Morceau Subrosa, but that always struck me as a pure pet project, not intended for major commercial release. Then again, neither is This Binary Universe, another arty album but far better regarded than nearly anything Mr. Transeau’s done in fifteen years. So his super-serious music doesn’t get on Spotify, is that it? Still doesn’t explain ECSM’s absence though. Get with the program, Perfecto!

Not much else to say about this Playlist. As the opening number of tracks indicate, it’s a very ‘90s assortment of tunes, but then the ‘90s has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to electronic music. Yes, including the overplayed tunes that you just can’t get out of your head, even while transcending to outta’ space. (can you find another place?)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Peter Benisch - Soundtrack Saga (2015 Update)

Turbo Recordings: 2001

(Click here to read my original TranceCritic review)

Oh yeah, this little CD. I've mentioned it a few three hundred times or so over the years now. It wouldn't surprise me if I've spent more words in other reviews talking about Peter Benisch than I'll allow myself within self-imposed word count here. Probably has something to do with preconceived failure in giving Soundtrack Saga adequate props. It was by no means my only praise-filled piece of early writing for TranceCritic, high scores also dropping for the likes of Sasha’s Xpander, Paul van Dyk’s The Politics Of Dancing, Drexciya’s Harnessed The Storm, and Delerium’s Karma. Those are all popular names though, established DJs and producers with strong track records, with me covering releases that had long been recognized as strong entries within their respective scenes. It didn’t matter that my writing was still finding its form, I could sloppily praise Xpander and readers would agree with me, because it’s practically common knowledge Xpander is awesome.

Soundtrack Saga though, that was a challenge. Peter Benisch was, and sadly remains, almost entirely unknown, in no small part due to his relative reclusiveness. It didn’t have to be that way, pals with several of Sweden’s top taste-makers of the late ‘90s (Adam Beyer, Joel Mull, the Dahlbäcks), often pairing with them for singles here and there. He even got an album out on Fax +49-69/450464 prior to this one, although Namlook’s print had fallen in stock for all but the die-hards by that time. Still, good ol’ Tiga must have liked the cut of Benisch’s ambient and chill jib, getting another album out of him in Soundtrack Saga (plus the charming Traxxdata as FPU, but that’s another review for later). And as I’ve gushed many times before, it was excellent, a gleaming jewel in an incredible bounty of gold from Turbo Recordings. This should have propelled Benisch to the forefront of ambient, downtempo, and chill music. It should...

Seems fate conspired to dictate otherwise. As great a release Soundtrack Saga was for Turbo Recordings, it remained an oddity within the label’s general discography. Obviously I enjoyed it, but for those counting on Turbo for classy house and trendy electro, this album probably passed them by. Then around the mid-‘00s, Turbo ceased CD production, had a blow-out sale on their back catalogue, and focused on grimey, trashy techno forever after. A guy like Benisch, already slightly out of place with the old Turbo, definitely had no future with this new direction. His name faded from discourse, along with his material.

Only that’s not entirely true, is it? His tracks make an occasional appearance on mixes from prominent jocks (James Zabiela, Jimmy Van M, Adam X), and very recently Benisch has emerged with the odd track and remix. Maybe Soundtrack Saga doesn’t have to be his lasting legacy, that he can be coaxed out of studio seclusion for another turn on the LP format. Carpe Sonum? Psychonavigation? I’m looking in your directions, dudes. I know you guys have the power!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Beach Boys - Sounds Of Summer: The Very Best Of

Capitol Records: 2003

First, it was The Police and Boney M. Then, it was Raffi and Disney singalongs. After that... not a whole lot. Music, which had been such a vital part of my early childhood, ceased having much influence. It was those darn Transformers, you see, taking my attention away for a few years, soon replaced by all sorts of marketable cartoons and media. Who has time for bands and songs when there's more The Real Ghostbuster toys to get, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bubblegum cards to buy, or Star Wars movies to obsess over? I still played the odd CD from my folks' collection, but seldom gave it much more thought than a passive distraction. One day though, after listening to a cheery compilation called Sun Jammin', the final track caught my attention like few songs had for a very, very long time. I had to hear more from this group, those sweet vocal harmonies, those starry-eyed lyrics of fun in the Caribbean sun and holiday bliss. The song was Kokomo.

Look, it was the '80s, and The Beach Boys’ most recent hit, so it was about the only way I'd have 'stumbled' upon them back then. Man though, after hearing that song, I scoured for more, the first time in my life I started digging for a specific group. It probably didn't hurt I was heavy into Archie Comics at the time (shad'up, we've all been there!), and saw kinship between the two representatives of clean-cut, all-American youth culture as envisioned by the late '50s and early '60s. I even compiled my findings onto my very first mixtape. True, all I had to work with was whatever was in my father's CDs, but as an initiation into the glorious world of music hunting obsession, The Beach Boys wasn't such a bad place to start.

Of course, had Tween Sykonee been around when Sounds Of Summer came about, I wouldn’t have needed to bother. There were numerous ‘Best Of’ and ‘Greatest Hits’ and ‘Essential Sounds’ on the market up through the ‘80s, but it didn’t seem The Beach Boys were quite done scoring the occasional charter even long after most figured their music way dated. Then the ‘90s hit and, well, yeah. With no new hits for a decade, the new millennium seemed as good a time as any for an authentic, definitive gathering of all their memorable, classic, vintage, glorious tunes. And Getcha Back, for some stupid reason (ugh... those ‘80s drums, so bad).

Sounds Of Summer is about as perfect a collection of Beach Boys music you could want without splurging on a zillion LPs for three or four great tunes surrounded by filler. It’s got all the surf rock hits, the hot-rodding car odes, the rowdy party tunes (Barbara Ann, so drunk), their introspective aging songs, and an assortment of odds and sods in the ensuing years. The only thing missing is selections from their wonderful Christmas album, but that’d defeat the ‘summer’ theme, wouldn’t it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Thievery Corporation - Sounds From The Thievery Hi-Fi

Eighteenth Street Lounge Music/4AD: 1997/1998

This album was such a revelation when I first heard it, even if it was treading familiar ground to music that came before. Some genres though, I seldom grow tired of, and when they fall out of popular favour, the heart grows fonder for another fix. These days, such down periods are almost impossible, every damn thing available at any damn time for almost no damn price (gosh darn it!). The '90s though, that was a different era, one where cool genres could completely disappear from local scenes for years, yet cultivating a vibe in the unlikeliest places.

For yours truly, I had nary a hope of finding much ambient dub, loungy trip-hop, or spaced-out downtempo even on the best of days (re: lucking out on a trip to Big Van' City, son), so having Sounds From The Thievery Hi-Fi stumble into my Canadian hinterlands storefront was a godsend. If you happened to hang out in Washington, D.C. though, where Misters Garza and Hilton were plying their trade in the back-half of the ‘90s, you’d be inundated with their sweet, sweet dubby vibe. Also, Kruder & Dorfmeister, somewhere in Eastern Europe.

So Thievery Corporation proved they were keeping the spliff-heady downtempo dub alive, even if the similarities to the early works of Beyond Records were entirely coincidental. They joined forces, after all, upon meeting each other in a lounge while waxing nostalgic about old timey bossa nova music. That sound would go on to define most of their work, but at this early stage they’re still feeding off the trip-hop and reggae dub brand most downtempo was comfortable indulging in during the ‘90s.

And while it wouldn’t surprise me if the Thievin’ Corps. doesn’t care for these early efforts anymore, it’s difficult denying just how mint some of these tunes remain. 2001 Spliff Odyssey is perfectly titled, a sublime slice of lengthy cosmic dub that strips rhythms bare, lays just enough reverb on to lose your head in, and wraps it all with floating, filtered pad work – cheeky vocal snippets thrown in don’t hurt either. Other tracks like Shaolin Satellite, The Foundation, Walking Through Babylon, So Vast The Sky, and .38.45 follow a similar mould, each ace examples of this style, though not nearly as long as Odyssey.

Ah right, that ‘Thievery Corporation make too short of tracks” gripe I mentioned in The Mirror Conspiracy. Technically, I could say the same thing here, but as this is early Thievery, their music hasn’t evolved to the rich, dense soup it would later, most tunes sparse and simple. Even their bossa (Vivid, The Glass Bead Game, Incident At Gate 7) and Afro cuts (Universal Highness, The Oscillator) only scratch the surface, more content at remaining dub above all else. In this case then, short track lengths are fine, most getting in and providing their nice jam before moving on. It may be simple song writing, but damn if Garza and Hilton not hit that sweet, downtempo dub spot in the process.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Overdream - Soundprints

Sun Station: 2011

This was quite a contrast coming off Olien's Sounded Paratronic. Both are 'dark psy', though they couldn't be further apart in the psy spectrum. Olien's brand of music is almost anti-music, foregoing traditional song structure for an endless barrage of twisted sounds intent on creating wacked-out imagery within your brainpan – and it's fucking awesome in doing so! Overdream, on the other hand, sticks to psy's typical structures, even brings in a few lobe-grabbing moments, and generally provides music that sounds competent but doesn't spark the same unpredictable energy Olien's works do. Essentially, this is the ‘twilight trance' sound, a darker version of full-on (or morning, or whatever), where things can go weird, but never so much that the mind turns to mush with aggressive beats and ear shredding effects. Yeah, I know, describing the difference between 'dark' and ‘twilight’ makes as much sense as the difference between 'goa' and 'psychedelic', but great wars have been fought in establishing these sonic boundaries within the psy trance contingent, much hippie blood shed and stained with acid tabs flowing through outdoor fields and forests. Very pretty laser blasts from the starships, though.

Anyhow, that ‘typical psy structure’ I mentioned often plays out thus: here’s a section with some cool sounds, now here’s another section with cool sounds, and then a third; maybe a forth if it’s a long track. That’s acceptable if there’s sounds you enjoy hearing, but trouble is there’s often very little melodic or harmonic flow linking these together (no, that steady psy bassline doesn’t count). Psy’s tendency to cram so much randomness into their tracks makes for a frustrating listen in huge quantities, and the opening few cuts of Overdream’s mini-album Soundprints falls prey to this trope too. A shame, since this Russian duo (Maxim & Olga Kurushyna) has sonic similarities to Olien, just not the same way with the deep atmospherics. Like some of the greats of goa’s past (Koxbox, Man With No Name, Etnica), Olien’s music is constantly evolving like an advanced lifeform, whereas most dark psy’s content to just add a new appendage or antler and call it a day.

Sorry for all that, let’s get to some proper reviewing, eh? Overdream emerged during the mid-‘00s boom of dark psy, and have maintained a steady career since, mostly in compilation duty. Ektoplazm also highly rates them, hence why this came downloaded during a trawl of the ever-awesome psy portal. If you like your dark psy, or twilight psy (or whatever), you should dig on the first three tracks – just, y’know, don’t listen to Sounded Paratronic beforehand. Personally though, the throwback goa cut Zurna does the trick for me. While that plastic rhythm can’t be mistaken for anything but current, the spacey multi-tapped pads and squelchy rubber-acid have all my ‘90s nostalgia electrodes tingling. As is wont for most psy albums, even in an EP format, there’s a downtempo dubby cut to finish out, Kaleidoscope Eyes with DubMyDub. It’s, um... well, it’s not Ott.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Olien - Sounded Paratronic (Original TC Review)

Trishula Records: 2007

(2015 Update:
I think Olien ruined psy trance for me. I'll get into more details with these thoughts in my next review - how practical! - but the short version is my expectations for what the dark side of the genre could sound like never again matched what Oliver Bach produced here. I'll grant it was a rather small sample size I took in in the years following, so perhaps I've missed out on a few choice producers lurking the deep underground of the psy scene. Somehow though, I suspect not, the whole sub-genre of dark psy growing rather stale as the '00s went on, then taking a bizarre turn into extreme BPMs as 'high-tek' (or whatever). I'm sure it retains a following as most psy sub-genres do, but yeah, my mid-'00s flirtation was enough for my fix thus far.

Unless, of coarse, Olien makes a comeback! Like so many - too many! - producers, he seemed finished after
Sounded Paratronic. As per the traditional story, he's released an odd track on compilations every so often, but has remained relatively quiet these past few years. Such a shame, his brand of sounds and effects still unlike any other I've heard. Like, I'm speeding through some alien metropolitan landscape where cyberpunk anime and pulp splattercore high fantasy dominate the scenery, all while tripping on LSD or some such. How could you not want to hear more music like this!)


IN BRIEF: Quite twisted.

For most folks, there are two kinds of music they look to get: tunes with a catchy hook, or tunes with an infectious beat. They simply have little time for technicalities like musicianship, creativity, and so on. Sure, every so often a song with all these traits will sneak into the public ear, but it’s quite the rarity when it does. So it isn’t surprising when music with other ideas in mind is dismissed as nonsense by Average Jane and Joe. After all, how good can it be if it doesn’t make you hum or tap your foot? Actually, at times it can be quite good indeed.

While only the basics of rhythm and melody continue to appeal to the masses, there’s a wealth of music designed for more specific tastes. Psychedelic music often has the listener’s imagination in mind, using soundscapes to trigger quirky images in the brains of the audience. When producers began making use of synths and sequencers in this vein, even the sky was no longer the limit. Psy trance was born, and has enjoyed its status as fringe music in spite of the ridicule it gets as just a bunch of wibbly noise. Still, ‘a bunch of wibbly noise’ isn’t the fairest description. There are plenty of catchy hooks and nice melodies scattered about this scene. However, there are also many producers out there who like to dig deep into psychedelia, leaving all but the fearless behind. This is Olien’s aim.

Oliver Bach describes his music as ‘layered psy’, and I do find this apt. On the surface, playing his album Sounded Paratronic in the background while I attended to other tasks, very little of his work caught my ear. The odd sonic trick here, a quirky sound there, but I couldn’t describe much afterwards. But when I sat down with the good ol’ Sennheisers... Good God, but does this music ever reveal itself to you! Or rather, I discovered there’s far more of interest going on than first impressions will show.

Make no mistake: there still isn’t much in the way of a catchy hook. And the rhythms, although definitely using different patterns between tracks, are seriously lacking in the funk. What Olien does remarkably well though, is create incredibly warped soundscapes that suck you in and tickles your imagination with twisted imagery. It’s like some sort of synthesis of organic, cybernetic, and alien textures.

Probably the closest comparison that springs to mind would be Oliver Lieb’s The Black Album under his L.S.G. alias. In fact, it would seem Bach gives a small tribute to his fellow Oliver in the opening track Amanit, as a few samples of various Lieb tracks can be heard in it. But whereas The Black Album focused mostly on the darkest of tech-trance ideas, Sounded Paratronic holds back from descending quite that far into madness.

The most intriguing thing I found with this album is just how it keeps your attention. I’ll admit my thoughts can wander when sitting back to music, often due to predictability. But with production geared for twisted imagery rather than typical song structure, Olien keeps you guessing what’s coming next. Granted, a great number of psy does this and I’ve often found myself subconsciously tuning it out anyways because what is offered just isn’t interesting. Not in Olien’s case though. Every stuttered synth, every rubbery bassline, every floating pad, every disembodied vocal sample keeps me hooked; such creative stuff to listen to it is. Hardly ever did I hear any of psy trance’s more annoying clichés crop up, and if they ever did, they were given a clever spin.

And probably the most important factor in making Sounded Paratronic an engaging listen is how it’s never overcooked. Psy often has a problem in trying to be too clever, too psychedelic. Sure, there are a couple times where it sounds like Olien is overdoing it (probably most notably in Cybersphere) but for the most part Bach keeps things focused on the imagery his music creates rather than indulging for indulgent’s sake.

Ultimately though, if you absolutely need to have your music contain typical rhythms and melody, Sounded Paratronic won’t interest you in the slightest. You won’t be singing Granularis in the shower and Calmar won’t have you break-dancing anytime soon (although I’m sure a few cyber-hippies won’t mind flailing to these), but then that’s beside the point.

Sounded Paratronic has a very specific audience in mind, and Olien has produced a well-crafted album for said audience. If you’re after a psy trance album that’ll play delightful things with your head, give this a go.

Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2007. © All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Various - The Sound Of Zero And One

Control Music: 1995

Probably the most remarkable thing about this compilation has nothing to do with the music within; rather, in the liner notes, there's mention of Canadian comedian Tom Green. Keep in mind this was released in 1995, well before he blew up big in American media, in fact still slumming it on Ottawa public cable access. Yet among the obligatory thank you notes, Glenn Humplik, who put this CD together, inexplicably but prophetically proclaims Mr. Green “will be a star by the time you read this”. True, Mr. Humplik worked as a co-host on a revamped MTV version of The Tom Green Show, so the two were likely mates, but how he thought this CD was a suitable medium for such a namedrop bump is bizarre. For you see, folks, The Sound Of Zero And One is hopelessly obscure, for once in the truest sense of the hyperbole.

For one thing, this collection of ten tracks offers scant few recognizable names beyond the most hardcore of Toronto techno trainspotters. Even Lord Discogs is flustered by the likes of Ajax (2), Circular (3), Buzz (13) (!!), and Ki (3). Right, Circular and Buzz is in fact Mr. Humplik himself, but the rest don't have much presence beyond this compilation. Fred Exelby pulls double duty here, once as All Broken, and another as part of A.S.A., and little else beyond. Space Ace and Auto Kinetic have more respectable discographies for way underground techno, but I’ll be astounded if you've heard of these names before reading this review (no, Tom Green doesn't count).

And yet, someone out there must be jonesing for The Sound Of Zero And One, for when I popped over to Lord Discogs to get a little background detail, I discovered the Marketplace asking price for this CD is nearly $75! What the Hell? I'll grant the music within is somewhat unique for mid-'90s techno, though not astoundingly so. Most of it is groovy acid, sometimes more minimal (Ki's Fluorescent, Circular's Reaction In Sync, Auto Kinetic's Blue Solutions, Buzz' Turboset), other times treading into trance's territory (All Broken's Set The Controls, Ajax's Evening Chanting), and elsewhere feeling the experimental itch (A.S.A.'s Autorhythm). Oh, and a lovely bit of ambient to close out with Space Ace's Sea Of Japan. A few of these are also exclusive to this CD, which I suppose does increase the value for collectors, though I can't imagine many fans of Ki or Circular existing out there. Or maybe they do, if there are folks willing to shed seventy-five bones for a copy.

It’s weird discovering all this after having The Sound Of Zero And One in my collection for nearly two decades. The only reason I bought the CD was it met two purchasing criteria during my honeymoon raver days: track list should feature mostly unknowns, and has cool looking cover art. I’ve gotten decent enjoyment from it over the years, but it doesn’t get played often. Maybe that price point will now make it sound better?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sven Väth ‎– In The Mix: The Sound Of The Ninth Season (Original TC Review)

Cocoon Recordings: 2008

(2015 Update:
At the risk of being totally predictable, boy what a difference of six years can make. No longer the scrappy, renegade techno party, Mr. Väth's night had become an Ibizan institution as the '00s wound down, one of the requisite stops for every vacationing punter. As such, the music reflected this change, recognizable anthems replacing underground, fuck-off bangers. It's a small shame that he didn't stay the harder course, but with so much success comes some responsibility in playing to the crowd, and the typical clubber would rather bop and shuffle in place than pound the dancefloor all night long. Ironically, given the bad rep trance had at this time (and still does!) the neo-trance stuff at the tail-end of CD2 comes off more daring and underground than anything from Jonson, Dubfire, or Johnny D.)



IN BRIEF: Something new, something old.

While there are club DJs, rave DJs, and superstar DJs, there seems to be only one Sven Väth, an individual who has seen every walk of European EDM culture since its inception. He’s like that guy who went through a high-school as part of the first graduating class, remained as a member of the faculty, and will probably stick around post-retirement even if it’s as a custodian - he just loves the place so damned much to ever leave. Similarly, Väth isn’t simply a reveler in dance music hedonism - he is hedonism!

Unsurprisingly then, ‘Pappa Sven’ saw something of a rebirth once he established his Cocoon brand in Ibiza at the turn of the century, gearing it as the grittier underground alternative to the high-end gloss the party island had succumbed to from dance music’s commercial success at the time. The emphasis on take-no-prisoners techno and such certainly was out of the ordinary back then, but that outsider’s thinking seems to have paid off: Väth remains just as popular as ever, all without ever compromising his musical intuition. Success!

The yearly Sound Of The... Season series aims to be a reflection of the sounds Sven was favoring in Ibiza each summer, and as such, nine years after Cocoon was established, we’ve arrived at the Ninth Season. While this may seem redundant if you were actually there, in these unforgiving economic times plane tickets can be pricey, so it’s nice to have a snapshot for those who can’t make it. Besides, it’s not like most of the partiers in Ibiza often actually ‘remember’ what even happened there, much less specifically heard. Anyhow, Ninth Season, like most of the previous Seasons in recent years, follows the two-disc format, with each disc having a tagline that reflects that year’s theme; this time, we have Disco and Invaders. For the sake of repetition, here’s yet another paragraph ending with an exclamation mark!

Disco is typical Väth: willfully erratic, yet compelling all the same. Heck, the opening track from Mathew “Not Dear Or Edwards” Jonson could be construed as typical Väth in itself, as it jumps from mournful woodwinds to thumping techno to wonky experimentalism in the course of its ten-minute running time. Another example: following Sasha’s futuristic groover Mongoose is the Afro tribal-techno Buiya from Ahmet Sisman, taking you right back to pure primal roots after cruising the streets of neo-Tokyo. Okay, so there really isn’t anything that amazing about this transition but in terms of set flow, it’s unexpected and keeps the rhythmic tempo on the climb, which is always a plus.

As per its title, CD1 is mostly geared for the discotheque, so you get a lot of big-room techno thumping about. While I’ll admit I preferred Väth’s techno when he was slamming out the tracks a dozen BPMs higher, the cuts on Ninth are still serious movers. Heck, even if it’s played-out, Dubfire’s remix of Radio Slave’s Grindhouse remains a great peak-time tune, indicating the prolific remixer has merely been working the Law Of Averages this past year - mind, it probably helps that Väth also cuts out some two-and-a-half minutes of useless twiddle. Unfortunately, Disco ends on a rather limp note, as Prydz’ remix of Total Departure is an overlong tension builder that never offers a release, and Väth’s own Trashbindance with Alter Ego man Roman Flügel is too plinky-plonk to do the trick as a follow-up. Still, this disc is a fun romp through familiarity, which is par for the course where Ibizan-themed compilations are concerned.

CD2 is more of an afterhours affair, with deep tech house dominating much of the first half. As usual, the chill groove of this sound is pleasant enough, but tends to be mostly a flatlined listening experience. About the only track that leaps out is, of course, Johnny D’s Orbitalife, if only because it was one of those omnipresent tunes you couldn’t ever escape. Hearing it here again is fair play, but still doesn’t lift the opening chunk of Invaders above anything more exciting than lounge vibes.

Things pick up with the pure acid trance vibes of Waiting For You Again from Sven Tasnadi. Don’t give me that look, you insufferable trendster. If you don’t recognize this as trance, then you clearly don’t know your EDM history; get back to me after you’ve listened to some classic cuts from Väth’s original Harthouse label. For everyone left, Invaders continues down the loopy hypnotic road, perhaps suggesting that classic trance is due for a proper resurgence in the coming year, provided folks call it what it is rather than lumping it with ‘minimal’. With Joris Voorn’s remix of Dark Flower offering a prog-house type of climax - at least in the way Väth uses it - and the quirky world beat vibes of Spirits providing a wonderful coda, CD2 ends far more strongly than CD1.

Ninth Season definitely has more things working in its favor than against; the strength of the music on hand is always beneficial. The unfortunate thing, however, is it doesn’t come across like a necessary pick-up. Unlike, say, Third Season which had the tag-team of Hawtin and an overall ‘night-out’ theme running, or the DVD package of Fifth Season, there isn’t anything unique here to differentiate Ninth from the rest of the Sound Of… series beyond the selection of tracks. And even then, a number of them have been featured on several other compilations since the summer - as such, should you already have a bunch of these tunes, chances are you’ll be more willing to give this one a pass. If not, though, or you have no problem with Väth mixing together a bunch of well-rinsed techno records for your home enjoyment, then Ninth Season should find a comfy home in your collection.

Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2008. © All rights reserved.

Friday, October 2, 2015

ACE TRACKS: September 2015

Well, what do you know? It’s October 2015, which means I’ve been back at this blog for three whole years now. I honestly never thought it’d come to this. While I was pretty determined to listen through my entire music collection in alphabetical order, I felt writing about my progress would be nothing but a short-termed lark. That I’d hit another burn-out wall, or see this as a futile endeavor if no one was reading, or get distracted with something more important. This format though - the self-imposed word count and sense of absolute writing freedom - has kept burn-out at bay, somehow attracted its fair share of steady readers, and never interfered with real world obligations. Geez though, I hope I don’t get big off this. Last thing I need in my life is becoming Internet Famous. Here, have a play of ACE TRACKS from September 2015 to keep the controversy at bay.


Full track list here.

MISSING ALBUMS:
Tom Middleton - The Sound Of The Cosmos
Dieselboy - A Soldier’s Story
DJ Moe Sticky - RnB State Of Mind 32 & 33 Various - Saint-Germain-Des-Pres Café III
Tau Ceti - Somnium

Percentage Of Hip-Hop: 0%
Percentage Of Rock: 7%
Most “WTF?” Track: Coldcut - Sound Mirrors (just what is going on with that instrumentation anyway?)

With so much ambient in this playlist, especially from AstroPilot, I’ve gone with a different sort of arrangement. No, not a variation of an alphabetical run-through. Rather, I’ve lumped all the beatless material at the beginning, and worked a gradual increase in tempo through to the end. It goes into some downtempo and deep house stuff, gets a bit more heavy with funk and disco punk, then finishes out with hard trance and acid. So, um, like a traditional set, I guess. Weird that I’ve never done it this way before, but then most of these playlists are quite the mish-mash of genres.
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...txt 10 Records 16 Bit Lolita's 1963 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 36 3six Recordings 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 Autumn Of Communion 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 bebop Beck Bedouin Soundclash Beechwood Music Benny Benassi Berlin-School Beto Narme bhangra big beat Big Boi Big L Big Life Bill Hamel Bill Laswell BIlly Idol 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 Ceephax Acid Crew Celestial Dragon Records Cell Celtic Cheb i Sabbah Cheeky Records chemical breaks 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 Craig Padilla Crazy Horse Cream Creamfields Crockett's Theme Crosby Stills And Nash Crosstown Rebels crunk Cryo Chamber Cryobiosis 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 Darren McClure Databloem 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 Distinct'ive Breaks 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 Dusted E-Mantra E-Z Rollers Eardream Music Earth Earth Nation Earthling Eastcoast EastWest Eat Static EBM Echodub Ed Rush & Optical Editions EG EDM World Weekly News Ektoplazm 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 Esoteric Reactive ethereal Etnoscope euro dance Eurythmics Eve Records Everlast 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 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. 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