Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta

A&M Records: 1980/2003

Probably the easiest collection of music from The Police I got into as a kid, though the larger themes obviously went well over my head. I had no idea Sting was singing about the degradation of our communication skills when infatuation overwhelms us, I just liked singing “de do do do, de da da da.” A peppy tune about a bird lost in a mine is a whole 'lotta fun, never mind having no clue what the simile's about. And isn't it funny how some sweaty General is fascinated by a gorilla girl in Bombs Away? Or Man In A Suitcase, which is clearly about a tiny man who literally lives in a suitcase? Haha, it's the sort of silly stuff Raffi might do a song about. Still, that first song, Don't Stand So Close To Me, seems so serious considering it's about cooties and all that – the chorus is just as catchy as the rest of 'em on though.

The fact that Zenyatta Mondatta ended up with so many fun, simple songs wasn't by conscious choice by Sting, Stewart, and Andy. After a rigorous tour in support of Regatta de Blanc, they reconvened for some studio time, but were right out the door for more touring a month later. Their third album was rather rushed as a result, the band mostly sticking to the reggae and punk fusion they'd grown incredibly comfortable and adept at performing. They were definitely itching to break out of that mould though, little hints and nuggets of their impending political-heavy, New Wave turn lurking here and there.

Take Driven To Tears, a sober reflection of the strife of poverty-stricken people, coupled with a lightly uplifting turnaround with When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What's Still Around. For the longest time, I thought these were the same song, so perfectly thematically paired as they are. Meanwhile, songs like Voices Inside My Head, Shadows In The Rain, Behind My Camel, and The Other Way Of Stopping find the band indulging in looser song-writing, some of which contain no lyrics at all, or input from other members either. Funny enough, Behind My Camel, the lone Andy Summers tune on here, was so hated upon by Sting that he refused to play bass for it, leaving it to Andy. It went on to win a Grammy for Instrumental Rock a couple years later, so what does Sting know.

And yes, the shift into broader political themes definitely announces The Police have arrived in The '80s. The Afghanistan War (“oh, 'guerrilla girl'”, Teenage Sykonee said), increased pressures to fit in a rapidly consumerist society... big issues were afoot, and damn if Sting & Co. weren't gonna' use their star platform to start telling their audience about them. Er, once they have the time to properly do it, that is, on an album that's not as rushed as Zenyatta Mondatta. For now, have a sampling with the familiar, spirited 'cod reggae'.

Various - Zentertainment 2004

Ninja Tune: 2004

My early years in the The Big City was tough, financial frugality forcing me to be ultra-picky in what new music I'd buy for myself. After Shadow Records folded though, where could I find a quick fix of jazzy, downtempo urban vibes on a poor student's income? Hello, Ninja Tune, what have you here? A low-budget sampler called Zentertainment 2004. I'd kinda' forgotten about the Ninja folk at that point (despite the 3CD box set Xen Cuts sitting on every store shelf, always), so this looked as handy a reintroduction to their tunes as any.

And the CD opens with exactly the right stuff I was expecting, Skalpel's 1958 the sort of broken-beat, jazzdance, cut'n'paste track one can't help but associate with the label that Coldcut built. Yeah, there were other prominent prints that dabbled in the sound, but they had no Cinematic Orchestra or Hexstatic on their roster. Speaking of, Hexstatic's super-funky Chase Me comes next, about as vintage of Ninja Tune funk as you can get. In fact, at the time I heard it, I couldn't help but get a nagging sense of the label not evolving much since the '90s. I didn't mind it, but surely there'd been a few new sounds they could be promoting in the year 2004 too. What even was going down in London undergrounds around that time anyway?

Ah, here's a new cat, some dude by the name of Diplo. His Don't Fall is kinda' different from what I normally expected of Ninja Tune, a broken-beat that's got a prominent half-step shuffle going for it. All those cut-up funk and jazz samples though, doesn't sound too different from Amon Tobin's efforts. Maybe if he focuses more on his rhythms, and doesn't rely so much on emulating what Ninja Tune alum have done, this Diplo chap might find himself a healthy career.

Like that Sixtoo guy, at the end of the CD. Holy cow, his Boxcutter Emporium is over ten minutes of various vibes, an utterly epic outing of trip-hop, illbient, and the sort of instrumentals RZA would get weak in the knees over. And what's with that weird mid-section, with the half-step rhythms and skitchy bassline that's like a buzzing sawblade cutting through the beats? Pretty dope, is what, definitely what I envisioned getting hyped in the London underground. And the dude's Canadian too? Mark my words, us Canucks will be defining this weird sound in the future years, believe you me!

A few familiar Ninja Tune names round out Zentertainment 2004 (Jaga Jazzist, Wagon Christ, Blockhead, cLOUDDEAD), plus the dancehall/grime scene gets a look-in too (Lotek HiFi's Ram Dancehall, Infinite Livez' Worcestershire Sauce). Yep, that's about as tidy a sum-up of Ninja Tune in the year 2004 as you're gonna' get. Still, none of this is exclusive to this CD, so unless you find it dirt cheap in the pawn shops or you're a Ninja completist, there isn't much reason to get Zentertainment 2004 fourteen years on.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Flowjob - Zentertainment (Original TC Review)

Iboga Records: 2008

(2018 Update:
Oh man, while re-listening to this album, I came up with the perfect analogy to describe it. Get ready for this, it'll blow your mind. So, like, you know how cars have, like, five gears, with the first being the slowest, and the fifth being the fastest? Flowjob's debut album,
Support Normality, was often hitting that peak of fourth gear, but would have been super-boss if it had a track or two that hit the fifth. Zentertainment, on the other hand, seems stuck in second gear for most of its runtime, occasionally squeaking into third, but seldom with much lasting success. Isn't that such an awesome analogy? What do you mean a George Harrison quote's coming to mind?

After this album, Mads Tinggaard left the group, but Joakim Hjørne's carried on the Flowjob banner to this day, even releasing an album in 2016. I browsed some of his recent material, and it sounds decent enough for contemporary prog-psy, but not much distinctive compared to most other stuff out there, missing that super-infectious groove these early efforts provided. May have to dig further to find out whether it disappeared after Mads' departure, or if it was a gradual thing.)

IN BRIEF: Sophomore stumble.

Strong debuts are common in the rock music industry. Whether thanks to initial innocence, talented hunger, or a nurtured push, such musicians often bring vital enthusiasm to their freshman efforts. Following that up with a solid second effort tends to be far more difficult, though, for a number of reasons that needn’t be brought up at this point; anyone with a passing familiarity with the music business would know them anyway. However, because dance music is a market dominated more by the single than the album, the dreaded Sophomore Slump occurs far less often. Heck, despite dozens of EPs, some producers don’t even get around to releasing a full-length. In this regard, the psy branch of EDM probably has the most in common with rock counterparts, as it is quite possibly the only large scene within dance culture that is primarily dominated by LPs.

As such, like rockers, many psy acts fall prey to second-album stumbles. Where it seems there’s agreeable debut albums from countless names monthly, strong follow-ups are increasingly rare. It’s as though all their great ideas are used up in one shot, and instead of easing through the in-between with singles, they rush out with a second album that sounds like a bunch of B-sides to the first.

And does Flowjob’s new album Zentertainment succumb to these pratfalls? Come-come now, surely you’ve learned how these introductory paragraphs go? Fortunately for the Denmark duo, it is only marginally so.

For those just tuning in to the Flowjob sound, Misters Hjorne and Tinggaard made an immediate impact with their 2006 debut album Support Normality on the burgeoning prog-psy label Iboga. I've already covered that release, but in case you’re not up for reading one of our older, rather clumsily-written reviews (we were still new at it, honest!), here’s the abridged version: infectiously groovy, wonderfully vibey, free-flowing prog that flirted between house and trance throughout, with very little actual psy influences considering the label it appeared on. Although some of the tracks on that album could have used more energetic climaxes, Flowjob’s sound was still highly enjoyable. Two years on now, where do we find the Denmark duo?

A surface scan reveals them to be cruising along right where they left off. Flowjob’s distinct neo-Tokyo electro-coo’ sound is all over Zentertainment, so if you come in looking for more of that, you’re in for a treat. And on the rhythmic end, they’re just as infectious as ever. You could potentially ignore a track for most of its duration, but once something grabs your attention, it hooks you in and you’re locked in for the ride. A welcome addition to their production are craftier basslines that are unafraid to leap off the loop-rails. If things are sounding fine and dandy, though, then what’s the problem I hinted at above?

Frankly, what’s missing from Zentertainment is a sense of thrill. I really don’t want to compare albums because even if it is not the case I have to assume the reader is coming into this one cold; however, when a follow-up lacks the same energy a debut has, comparisons are inevitably made. Flowjob has scaled back their music such that it comes off quaint and pleasant now, which of itself is fine for casual moments or warm-up periods at parties. But when you hear potential for more lurking beneath you can’t help but come away with lingering thoughts of “what if...” This was what impeded Support Normality from reaching some truly exhilarating highs, and now that Zentertainment finds Flowjob in an even mellower mood, their music comes off very subdued. The first half of this album does maintain a decent sense of flow, though. It’s all pleasant sounding with spacey pads, catchy (if overused) vocal samples, and undeniably groovy rhythms.

Once the lovely trance vibes of Don’t Believe In Mirrors ends, though, chances are you’ll be wanting Zentertainment to either ratchet-up the energy or offer something new. Flowjob provides the latter; unfortunately, it seriously drops the album into a kind of middling variation of their sound with lower BPMs and odd hooks. There are moments that’ll still grab your attention but unlike prior work, it never seems to go anywhere. It sounds as though the duo, like so many sophomore efforts, are trying to experiment in areas where they don’t have quite the musical fortitude to make work, all the while their strengths are sorely hindered in the process. And unfortunately, it ends the album on a rather limp note.

A bad album, then? No, not really. For the most part, it is still enjoyable, and if anything Zentertainment is charming enough for chiller moments. If you missed out on Flowjob’s debut, however, this one probably won’t do much for you.

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

Mick Chillage - Zen Diagrams

...txt: 2015/2016

Oh look, another ambient/Berlin-School album featuring four lo-o-o-ong tracks. Makes sense, right, doing one from the new school, then going way back to the old school, and now back to the new school again. If not for the alphabetical stipulation, I'm sure y'all would expect Yes' Tales Of Topographic Oceans next. That would be followed by something from, say, Lingua Lustra (he's got a four track LP in his discography, right?), then a Klaus Schulze or Popol Vuh outing (kinda' missing those guys thus far), and for the sake of pattern-breaking, a '90s Fax+ outing as a capper. Thus would conclude my “Experimental Ambient Albums With Four Really, Really Long Tracks” theme week. But I only do theme weeks when they coincidentally align with a large of releases having the same word as a title. On that note, how much are y'all looking forward to a whole month of Ambient... albums, eh? Kidding, kidding! (...or am I?)

I've taken in a fair bit of Mick Chillage's music now, and I can't claim it's all stuck with me. Saudade, that's easy, what with the roof of icicles instantly reminding me that's one cold, chilly album. Paths and (M)odes, though, are a little more sketchy. I do remember a super-long composition on Paths, and (M)odes being rather minimalist compared to his other works, but beyond the usual pleasant, cool, spacey vibe Mick's music often parlays, particulars escape me off hand.

I was initially worried that Zen Diagrams was gonna' be another case of that, especially since it only has four tracks on it, each simply titled Zen Diagrams 1-4. It's about as faceless as ambient can go without going for SAW2 levels of non-naming. Three of the four pieces hover between fifteen and twenty minutes, the remaining one inching near the half-hour mark. The CD versions are shorter compared to the original digital ones, a result of needing to edit things to fit CD length. If you just go with a download though, or happened to have gotten these tracks off the ...txt Nagual memory stick compilation, you can enjoy an additional three and a half minutes of meandering ambient drones!

I riff on 'meandering ambient drone', but Mick's usually pretty good at it, and Zen Diagrams features some lovely pieces of sonic wallpaper and skydome sounds throughout. He's always been effective at creating space, and here's no exception, Part 1 vast and roomy with its synths, subtle melodies distant but never out of range. Part 2 goes as droney as ambient typically does, but do I ever want to lay back at the planetarium as it plays too. Part 3 (aka: the Big Track) is in no hurry to get anywhere, quite content in taking in the scenery as it comes, even if it's a rather frigid landscape in these nocturnal alpine climes. Part 4 indulges in less calming moods, even getting rather twitchy at parts, but I suppose you needed something off-kilter to break any monotony this album may have.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Tangerine Dream - Zeit

Ohr/Esoteric Reactive: 1972/2011

Probably not the most influential or important album in Tangerine Dream's discography, but certainly a very big step in the development of their sound. After a couple LPs pushing the fringes of psychedelic rock music, Edgar Froese and Christopher Franke found the traditional instruments of the genre – guitar and drums – getting in the way of their experimental, freeform ideas. Out they went, making room for more synths, including a new-fangled sampler called the Mellotron (aka: that keyboard that could emulate orchestral strings and choirs, much to the chagrin of the Musician's Union). They also brought in a new organist in Peter Baumann, solidifying the Tangerine Trio that would go on to make much of their definitive '70s work. And finally, quite enamoured with what abstractionists could coerce out of these cumbersome keyboards, the band jettisoned almost any semblance of melody or traditional musical structure, creating four near-twenty minute compositions of minimalist sounds and alien harmonies. Either that, or those archaic analogue units took a fair bit of time to figure out, so create conceptual art kosmikmusiche until you do.

Naturally, this left Zeit a somewhat controversial album upon its release, especially when stuffy rock music journalists from the UK couldn't make much sense of it. Sure, they'd embraced psychedelic bands like Pink Floyd and Yes, but at least they were British. These Germans though, with their weirdness and mainland Europeaness, probably just didn't get rock music the way the lads of England did. Let them krauts have their krautrock. Of course, the rock world would soon turn on prog-rockers for similar artistic excesses, but by then Tangerine Dream were well into defining a new kraft of Berlin school.

Still, it's undeniable Zeit's a bit much to take in if you don't know what you're getting in for. Even among the group's vast catalogue, it's an album that stands in stark contrast to everything else, an admitted dive into minimalism they felt was a creative dead-end. For sure the players involved are proud of the work, but once they got the handle on their new studio toys, it wasn't long before things like melody and structure came back.

That said, I cannot deny there's something weirdly captivating in Zeit, the sort of other-worldly vibe that makes you feel like you're riding shotgun with Dave Bowman to the eighth dimension. The opening Movement (yes, we're going that pretentious) features discordant cellos settling you into an uneasy space before calmer pastures emerge. Also featured is the musical styling of Florian Fricke and his big modular Moog, the only one of its kind in Germany at the time. With these extra components, Birth Of Liquid Plejades is probably the most dynamic of the four Zeit Movements, the remaining three (Nebulous Dawn, Origin Of Supernatural Probabilities, Zeit) extremely quiet, meandering, and minimalist. It all makes better sense as score work, which some must have noticed as Tangerine Dream would get tapped to do soundtracks in such legendary films like Sorcerer and Legend.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Plank & Ishq - Zeal Monachorum

...txt: 2017

Not content to pair up with Ishq with one alias, Lee Norris dragged his Nacht Plank pseudonym in for a little collaborative work too. That may seem either redundant or overkill, but the Ishqamatics stuff, that had a very specific sound, a 'bound' sound, if you will. Misters Norris and Hillier though, they have other musical explorations in mind, stuff that isn't so tied to that project's ambient techno leanings. They have all this vintage analogue gear at their disposal, see, equipment they can jam away for hours on end in freeform music making as the OG krautrockers like Tangerine Dream and Cluster did. And Lee, he already had a project name for such craftsmanship, that being Nacht Plank. Ishq though, he's still just same ol' Ishq.

Thus a number of albums resulted in their sessions. First were three volumes titled Crows An Wra, featuring tracks averaging between ten and twenty minutes in length, one even breaking the half-hour mark. I haven't listened to any of them, because even that seems a bit much sonic noodling and musical doodling than I'm usually willing to take in from these two. But hey, if you're a huge fan of either Nacht Plank or Ishq, have at 'em.

Me, I'll take a sampling for now, in this follow-up album of Zeal Monachorum. It features four tracks, the opener lasting over twenty-four minutes long, the rest hovering around the sixteen minute mark. It honestly doesn't come across that way though, more like a disconnected assemblage of experimental sounds, bleepy passages, oscillating synths, and all manner of eggheaded ideas coming and going. If they'd broken everything up into individual tracks, however, you'd be looking at around a dozen pieces of conceptual art-music, some of which you might skip if given the option. Plank & Ishq ain't having any of your picky-nicky notions of music consumption though. You're gonna' take all their meandering audible activities, from the broken snippets of dialog, to the chirping electronics, to the soothing pad drone, to the languid bell tones, to the wobbly Moog – and that's all just in Church Of The Cross Modulation! Okay, not the dialog bits, those are in other tracks.

I suppose there are loose themes tying each track together. Zeal Monachorum Moonships mostly has sci-fi modulating sounds, every so often broken up by dubby, flowy synth-pad passages – it's like Plank and Ishq are taking turns with the assorted gear. Oxenham Space Locator maintains the Berlin-School modulating fun for much of its duration, save a bleep-ambient coda towards the end. Devonschire Oscillations treads closest to something like ambient techno, though the added guitar-synth tones keeping things on that '70s vibe.

Zeal Monachorum does have nifty portions throughout, but like the krautrock Plank & Ishq are drawing influence from, demands your undivided attention to get much out of it. Fortunately, you'll get plenty opportunities to do so, as the two have launched a new label exclusively exploring such music, called Zeit. That word sounds familiar, somehow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Hide And Sequence - You Should Have Destroyed

Werkstatt Recordings: 2015

I want to see this movie. That is what Hide And Sequence really wants to make, right? The artwork for this remix EP is far too lush for any ol' collection of alternate takes. His other releases suggest a narrative of sorts, the usual cyberpunk tale of androids coming to grips with their humanity or overthrowing their oppressive existence (y'know, that ol' chestnut), but, mang', just look at that art! Even without hearing a single synth note or space pad or vocoder lyric, you have an entire six book epic worked out in your head, don't you. Sure, synthwave is replete with such iconography, but something about this one pushes things to another level, beyond what's required to grab your attention (ie: '80s cars, neon colours, sci-fi spaceships). There's a saga to be told by this lone figure in a digital wasteland, and damn don't I want to discover it.

Lord Discogs doesn't have much information regarding Hide And Sequence, this EP his lone entry, plus a few, scattered compilation contributions. It's kinda' maddening just how behind the ball The Lord That Knows All is when it comes to synthwave releases. Like, I get it, it's a scene that's overflowing with amateurs, one-offs and bedroom producers self-releasing their stuff through Soundcloud and Bandcamp. It's difficult keeping up with it all, not to mention has more of a younger following compared to the median age of Discoggian contributors – this scene would rather chronicle their music collecting through outlets like Reddit rather than a record database. Maybe it'll all find its way to Discogs too, but Yet Another Synthwave Track doesn't seem to have as much entry priority as all those Detroit techno white labels.

Anyhow, there's more info over at Hide And Sequence's Bandcamp page, so here's some particulars. The project is helmed by Australian Jason Taylor, and first emerged in 2013 with a free mini-album called The Fall. He then released a longer album with Werkstatt Recordings called Resurrection, followed by this remix EP You Should Have Destroyed. He's since released a few more items, moving closer to the realms of film scores than straight-up synth pop. Ooh, nifty t-shirts too!

Two new tracks appear on this EP, the titular opener which does the Carpenter-ode thing, while No Place On Earth has a foreboding air about it. These remixes, though, hot damn! Tundra turns My Darkest Fear into a gut-wrenching futurepop New Beat thing. Hexamoten reworks Resurrection into a menacing, electro-gothic outing (are those Blaster Beam effects on the lyrics? Sure sounds like 'em), while Syntax coerces the same tune into a subtle, poppier New Beat vibe. Meanwhile, even Werkstatt boss Toxic Razor couldn't help but add his touch to one of HAS' tunes, his Beatbox Machinery rub on Perfect Lie making for a chipper synth-pop outing. Nicely adds some levity to all the futurepop melodrama in these lyrics. Yet, even those, I find quite lovely, especially the digitized words in Resurrection. Movie version of these songs, now!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Various - Frankie Bones: You Know My Name

Moonshine Music: 2000

Yeah, I know your name. He knows his name. Odds are super-high that even you, dear reader reading this, know his name. I mean, you better, considering I just did a review of another mix CD of his a month ago. Still, there are some who don't know his name, even with it right on the cover.

When this CD dropped, I was working at a music shop with free range to order whatever I felt we needed. Moonshine Music were easy items to get, which I'd let sit for a few weeks before nabbing them for myself. You Know My Name hung around for a while, few giving it much attention, but a pair of teen girls were browsing the store, noticed the CD with Frankie's smug Brooklyn mug looking back at them, to which they said, “Like, as if we'd know his name.” Kids those days, I swear.

You Know My Name was to be Frankie Bones' proper break-out into the lucrative field of DJ mix CDs. For sure he'd been releasing them for a half-decade by the year 2000, though most remained in underground obscurity. United DJs Of America was probably his biggest national exposure in the CD market, and even that set was in service of a running series, forced to rub shoulders with other DJ talents. He had a couple other runs on Brooklyn-based X-Sight Records (Factory 101, Computer Controlled), but Moonshine Music would give him his highest profile commercial set yet, with many more sure to follow as with such previous techno luminaries like Carl Cox, and, um, DJ John Kelley? DJ Brian? ...DJ Micro? Y'know, Moonshine was actually kinda' hurtin' for proper techno mixes over the years. They needed Bones' brand of bosh more than ever!

And he gives them exactly that. After a little skit of a girl arriving at an underground party (I love it when Bones opens his CDs like that), he drops a recognizable anthem in Mario Piu's Communication (sans cheese-ball phone samples), then it's off to the races. Strictly 4am bangin' faceless techno bollocks, served in Frankie's uncompromising Brooklyn style (I've written that phrase before, haven't I...).

In fact, it's almost too uncompromising, music that's all about the relentless assault, things like hooks or melody an afterthought. There's sections that'll get your attention, like the weird noises of Black Lung's Gizmo, abrasive voices in Terrence Fixmer's Electrostatic, red alert sirens of D-Factor's Barana, and whatever phrase is getting looped in any of Bones' own cuts. I can't say much of it sticks with me after though. Frankie's mixing is quick, letting tracks play out a few loops for a couple minutes before moving on. Get in, get out, Get The Fuck Up, as the Bones tune says. Good fun while in the dingy warehouse district in the wee hours of the night, but kinda' monotonous while sitting at home sipping tea.

After this, Bones retreated from the mix CD market. Guess the Moonshine experience soured him on that scene.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Tiga - You Gonna Want Me (Remixes) (Tocadisco + Van She)

Different: 2007

I have absolutely no idea why this exists in my music collection. Okay, obviously I got myself an MP3 rip of it, so that's why it 'exists in my music collection', but moving beyond the pedantic observation, I'm struggling to remember the reason I got it in the first place. Most likely it was intended for a TranceCritic review, as those were the only times I'd get singles between 2005-2009, but why this? I suppose we were seriously lacking Tiga material, especially after missing out on Sexor the year prior, so maybe while spotting this among the new monthly releases at Juno Records, I put in a request from our music-nabbing guy for a 'copy'. Why not just do Sexor though? No, wait, that's an easy answer, the unfortunate necessity for proper music journalism only ever focusing on the newest music, never backtracking unless via re-issues or gimmick entries. I hate that about proper music journalism.

In a way, this version of You Gonna Want Me was a backtrack of sorts too. The original EP came out pre-Sexor, one of that album's lead singles. It did fine, with remixes from Isolée and Jesper Dahlbäck, but didn't hit quite the same high as Pleasure From The Bass or (Far From) Home. Folks mostly forgot about there being a single for this tune, except for one chap, a Roman Böer de Garcez, more famously known as Tocadisco. You definitely remember him.

After breaking out with his remix of The Egg's Walking Away, Tocadisco became one of the hottest electro-house remixers throughout the mid-'00s, perhaps only rivalled by Stuart Price. Mylo came calling. Deep Dish came calling. New Order came calling. Todd Terry came calling. Even ATB came calling, by which point Tocadisco didn't give a rat's ass anymore (so sayeth the cheeky remix title). However, he still found it within his heart of hearts to give Tiga's You Gonna Want Me his own special touch, two years after the single first dropped.

Tocadisco's remix does what a Tocadisco remix typically does. Thumping heavy beat, big build with the chorus looping, and a chunky, farty riff replete with stutters and white noise wash. You've heard this sort of track tons of times, but then he did help set the template. The Van She Mix is more interesting, getting on that disco punk, thrashy Ed Banger sound. Dear Lord though, do they ever milk that second build for ludicrous lengths. In fact, the second half of it is just one long build, with a pitter of a release lasting a couple bars after. Probably a fun track to DJ with, but at least the Tocadisco Remix actually delivers on its promise of a big dumb electro drop.

Think that's why I skipped doing a TC review on this – there's just not much worth talking here. Not when such important items like One + One, Something To Live For, Elements Of Life and History Of Hardstyle 4 were on my plate.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Banco de Gaia - You Are Here

Six Degrees Records: 2004

You Are Here is Banco de Gaia's worst album.

I was tempted to just leave it there, move on, and eat up self-imposed word count with discussions of puppies, or kittens, or puptens, or kitpies (surely merging all that adorableness will result in something uber-adorable!). Besides, while it's fun to tear into utter crap EDM or banal trance bollocks now and then, it's lame getting hyper-critical like some edgelord YouTuber at my age, especially if it's with regard to an artist I actually like. But then I got wondering, why do I dislike You Are Here so much? While I enjoy most of Toby Marks' music, even I cannot deny he's thrown up a few dud tracks along the way, stuff that doesn't move my mojo in favour of his mint material. This album though, so much of it just feels regrettably off to my ears, such that I need to unpack this, understand why I rank it so low in Banco's discography.

Where to begin? How about the thing that's immediately noticeable and casts a shiny, slick, sucky sheen on everything: the mixdown. You know how there's a difference between a rock album from the '70s, and one from the '80s, in that the latter often sounds flatter and stripped of analogue warmth? That's what it's like listening to You Are Here compared to every other Banco album. Dear Lord, but does it ever sound digitally flat to me, as though the soul of Marks' music is completely absent. So many bass textures are DOA (glaringly so on Waking Up In Waco and Not In My Name), that it makes sitting through them a cringing chore. This, from a musician who can have you hanging on every second in a half-hour-plus excursion through Kincajou! Even Marks must have realized this digital mastering wasn't working for him, as he went back to an analogue mixdown in his follow-up Farewell Ferengistan, with much improved results.

That leads me to my second point: I can never remember how the back-end of this album goes. After the radical tonal shifts between the twelve-minutes long, slow blues-jazz croon of Gray Over Gray, into the cheeky pop-house romp of Tongue In Chic, the remaining three tracks of You Are Here always and utterly evaporate from memory, sometimes even right after they've played. This is the only Banco album where that happens to me! No matter their quality, every tune on every other album sticks in my brain meat, but Not In My Name, We Are Here, and Still Life? Fifteen years on, and still nada despite many attempts.

Then there's the heavy-handed political sloganeering (even for a Banco album), the genre dalliances that never led to future explorations, and that initial nagging dread that, after 10 Years, Banco de Gaia might have nothing left in the creative tank. Thankfully, You Are Here proved more an aberration than a trend, so I'll end on a positive note: Zeus No Like Techno remains good stupid fun.

Things I've Talked About

...txt 10 Records 16 Bit Lolita's 1963 1965 1966 1967 1968 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 Ajna 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 Aquarellist Aquascape Aquila Arcade Architects Of Existence 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 Aythar B.G. The Prince Of Rap Babygrande Balance Balanced Records Balearic ballad Banco de Gaia Bandulu battle-rap Bauri Beastie Boys Beat Buzz Records Beats & Pieces bebop Beck Bedouin Soundclash Beechwood Music Benny Benassi Berlin-School Beto Narme bhangra Bicep big beat Big Boi Big L Big Life Bill Hamel Bill Laswell BIlly Idol BineMusic BioMetal Biophon Records 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 Bluetech 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 Britpop Brodinski broken beat Brooklyn Music Ltd Bryan Adams BT Buffalo Springfield Bulk Recordings Burial Burned CDs Bush Busta Rhymes Calibre calypso Canned Resistor 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 Cevin Fisher Cheb i Sabbah Cheeky Records chemical breaks Chihei Hatakeyama chill-out chiptune Chris Duckenfield Chris Fortier Chris Korda Chris Sheppard Christmas Christopher Lawrence Chromeo Chronos Chrysalis Ciaran Byrne cinematic soundscapes Circular Cirrus Cities Last Broadcast City Of Angels CJ Stone Claptone classic house classic rock classical Claude Young Clear Label Records Cleopatra Cloud 9 Club Cutz Cocoon Recordings Coldcut Coldplay coldwave Colette collagist Columbia Com.Pact Records comedy Compilation Comrie Smith Connect.Ohm conscious Control Music Cor Fijneman Cosmic Gate Cosmic Replicant Cosmos Studios Cottonbelly 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 Curb Records cut'n'paste Cyan Music Cyber Productions CyberOctave Cyclic Law Cyril Secq Czarface D-Bridge D-Fuse Dacru Records Daddy G Daft Punk Dag Rosenqvist 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 Alvarado David Bickley David Guetta David Morley DDR Deadmau5 Death Row Records Decimal 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. Dido Dieselboy Different DigiCube Dillinja dirty house Dirty South Dirty Vegas disco Disco Gecko disco house Disco Pinata Records 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 Soul Slinger 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 Dynatron 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 Empire 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 Firescope 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 futurepop g-funk gabber Gabriel Le Mar Gaither Music Group Galaktlan Galati Gang Starr gangsta garage Gas Gasoline Alley Records Gee Street Geffen Records Gel-Sol Genesis Geometry Combat 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 Grey Area grime Groove Armada Groove Corporation Grooverider grunge Guru Gustaf Hidlebrand Gusto Records GZA Haddaway Halgrath happy hardcore hard house hard rock hard techno hard trance hardcore Hardfloor hardstyle Harmless Harmonic 33 Harold Budd Harthouse Harthouse Mannheim Hawtin Hearts Of Space Hed Kandi Helen Marnie Hell Hercules And Love Affair Hernán Cattáneo Hi-Bias Records Hic Sunt Leones Hide And Sequence Hiero Emperium Hieroglyphics High Contrast High Note Records 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 Ishq Island Records Italians Do It Better italo disco italo house Item Caligo J-pop Jack Moss Jafu Jam and Spoon Jam El Mar James Horner James Murray James Zabiela Jamie Jones Jamie Myerson Jamie Principle Jamiroquai Javelin Ltd. 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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 Memex 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-Do MO-DU Moby Model 500 modern classical Moist Music Moodymann Moonshine Moss Garden Motech Moving Shadow Mujaji Murk 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 Nashville Nature Sounds Naughty By Nature Nebula Neil Young Neon Droid Neotropic nerdcore Nervous Records Nettwerk Neurobiotic Records New Age New Jack Swing new wave Nic Fanciulli Nick Höppner Night Time Stories Nightwind Records 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 Oasis Octagen Offshoot Offshoot Records Ol' Dirty Bastard Olan Mill 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 Orkidea Orla Wren Ornament Ostgut Ton Ott Ouragan Out Of The Box OutKast Outpost Records Overdream Paleowolf 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 Platinum Platipus Plump DJs PM Dawn Poker Flat Recordings politics Polydor Polytel pop Popular Records Porya Hatami post-dubstep Prince Prins Thomas Priority Records Profondita prog prog psy 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 psychedelia Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia Psychomanteum 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 ragga Rainbow Vector Ralph Lawson RAM Records Randal Collier-Ford Random Review Rank 1 rant Rapoon RareNoise Records Ras Command Rascalz Raster-Noton Ratatat Raum Records RCA React Red Jerry Refracted reggae remixes Renaissance Renaissance Man Rephlex Reprise Records Resist Music Restless Records RetroSynther Reverse Alignment Rhino Records Rhys Fulber Ricardo Villalobos Riley Reinhold Rising High Records RnB Roadrunner Records Robert Hood 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. 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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 TRS Records Tsubaba Records 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 Vermont Vernon Verus Records Verve Records VGM Vice Records Victor Calderone Vince DiCola Vinyl Cafe Productions Virgin Virtual Vault Virus Recordings Visionquest Vitalic vocal trance Vortex Wagram Music Warp Records Warren G Water Music Dance Wave Recordings Waveform Records Wax Trax Records Way Out West WEA Wednesday Campanella Weekly Mini-Review Werk Discs Werkstatt Recordings WestBam White Swan Records William Orbit Willie Nelson world beat world music writing reflections Wrong Records Wu-Tang Clan Wyatt Keusch XL Recordings Yello Yes Youth Youtube YoYo Records Yul Records Zenith ZerO One Zomby Zoo Entertainment ZTT Zyron ZYX Music µ-Ziq