Monday, June 30, 2014

2 Unlimited - No Limits!

Quality Music: 1993

Oh man, I could so do another 'anecdote review' with this CD, it being the first disc I ever owned and all. But nay, Nightflight To Venus was once enough for such a gimmick, so I'll leave the personal stories aside. All I'll say is had I bought my initial choice of Naughty By Nature's 19 Naughty III instead on that fateful day, my musical development could have been drastically different during those early, impressionable teenage years.

No Limits! came out a year after 2 Unlimited's debut, and the group was quick to transition from a charming (lambasted?) Belgian techno-rave act to a proper pop sensation. They couldn’t do it re-hashing the same ol’ dance formula as before though. They needed cleaner production, tighter song-writing, and a new anthem that proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, their early singles of Get Ready For This and Twilight Zone weren’t just flukes cashing in on a hot sound. Something with a hook instantly recognizable and so simple anyone could hum it, with a chorus to match and a title that not only could be used for the LP-proper, but even have tongue-in-cheek playfulness as it related to the group name. Got it, R.U.O.K.!

Look, I’m actually sick of No Limit at this moment. Between it being the first track on this album, plus having just done the single, I’ve now heard seven iteration of the damned song in a row, five of which are practically identical to each other. I’ll still enjoy it the next time I hear it at a hockey game, but right now, I’m burnt out on it – I’ve discovered there is a limit to how much No Limit I can take.

Fortunately, No Limits! doesn’t retread that mind-numbing path quite so often. Maximum Overdrive and Let The Beat Control Your Body are similar tunes, in that they go for the ‘dumb-fun’ dance anthem as No Limit does, but the rest of this album’s surprisingly diverse within the limited range 2 Unlimited set upon itself. Tribal Dance was the other big single from here, far cleverer in offering high-octane dance music compared to forgotten tracks like Break The Chain and Kiss Me Bliss Me (literally, I forgot the latter existed!). Showing some musical class, Mysterious is a well-crafted dance-pop song, while Faces and The Power Age have Ray and Anita injecting world issues into their lyrics, using their gained popularity for more than mindless musical escapism. On the lighter side of things is a happy little number called Throw The Groove Down (such whimsical fun!) and a nice bit o’ bliss from Invite Me To Trance.

I’m not gonna’ sell you on No Limits! if you aren’t already sold on 2 Unlimited, but for such a quick sophomore effort, it’s leaps beyond Get Ready. Hell, even the ballads, Where Are You Now and Shelter For A Rainy Day, are pleasant numbers to end the album on. Me, giving praise to euro-dance ballads. That just don’t happen, mang!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

2 Unlimited - No Limit (BioMetal, Part 4)

Quality Music: 1992/1993

(Click here to read my original TranceCritic review.)

“Time until total blackout?”

“Five minutes, General Wilde.”

He leaned forward at his cramped bridge console, and finished his ninth stim’ fix with a strong swig. A song played in his head, a tune so annoyingly memorable it seemed forever looped. Maybe it was his mind’s feeble attempt at distraction, relieving the stress of the mission. Everything hinged on his direction, his orders, and his intuition. Yet here were a couple of kids doing all the gruelling work for him. All he could do was sit and watch their progress, praying to the Elder Souls he’d given them all the tools they needed in the HALBARD for a successful mission. That, and a limitless amount of luck.

“Amazing they've made it so far,” Wilde muttered, but their time was almost out. The orbital frigate he operated from could only remain for a couple hours more before the BioMetals would detect it and send swarms of the creatures after them. If his two officers ploughing a course into the heart of the BioMetal lair failed in eliminating the central brain-hub and spawning nursery, he’d be left with no other option but complete planetary decimation, including Ray and Anita whether they still lived or not. They deserved a chance to succeed on their own, but Wilde knew where his obligations lay.

He rubbed both sides of his cheeks, sweaty palms scratching against a coarse layer of whiskers. A shave already? Truly his beard had no upper limit in its rate of growth. Probably sprouts faster than BioMetals.

He tapped an intercom button at his console, opening a channel to the science lab. “Dr. de Coster, how's the status of our fail-safe?”

“Sitting just p'urty, Sir,” came a reply. “Ol' Romy and Marion are ready if you want them.”

Wilde chuckled. Leave it to a 'mad' scientist to give such destructive weapons pet names. “I hope it won't come to that,” he replied. “Ray and Anita have exceeded my expectations. It's possible there's unlimited potential in the two. Their mission's gone from 'long shot' to 'possible chance' in rapid time, and I'm not about to waste their earned good will by destroying them in the process.”

“And if they don't make it back?”

Wilde pursed his lips. “We'll have to give 'Romy' and 'Marion' a try then, won't we. May the Elder Souls forgive us if we do though.”

“Haha, you sound as though their aftermath will swallow us in the process.”

Wilde switched the intercom off. If they don't succeed, I fear it just will at that.

He glanced back at his monitor, the tactical read-out of the BioMetal lair growing distorted. Then, with a garbled flash of radio-wave static, it went dark. The HALBARD’s signal disappeared, buried beneath tons of rock and twisted bio-mass. It was all on Ray and Anita to see the mission through to its end.

Pressing his clasped knuckles against his forehead, he gave a small, quiet prayer. May there be no limit to your gifts.

(If you're hopeless lost as to what's going on, click here.)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Prodigy - No Good (Start The Dance)

XL Recordings: 1994

If any single perfectly encapsulated The Prodigy's transition from fun-time hardcore rave act to gritty thrash-dance heroes, it would have to be No Good. Following the commercial success (and critical backlash) of Experience, Liam Howlett saw it necessary for a change of direction, keeping five steps ahead of the imitators that had sprung up. One Love was the first step, mostly abandoning spastic breakbeats and chipmunk vocals in favour of serious shit like ethnic chants and didgeridoos. Um, more on that one at a later date.

Before all the fierce punk attitudes that defined Music For The Jilted Generation’s legacy came into being, Mr. Howlett still had regular ravey tunes on the mind, including big riffs and poppy vocal samples. Using the same Kelly Charles hook that Hithouse did was far from a unique idea, and Liam later expressed his early doubts over it, already being such a played out vocal. A testament to his brilliant song-writing, then, that he not only kept the You’re No Good For Me line, but made it his own in the process, retaining the underground cred’ he was hard at work re-establish for The Prodigy. Hell, it sure convinced me: my first exposure to it was Jack To The Sound Of Underground, yet every time I hear Ms. Charles now, it’s No Good that fires off in my memory banks.

The synth riffs are punchy and not all that dissimilar to typical 'techno' tearing up charts of the time, but there an air of menace to them; the happy days are over, yo'. And those rhythms, mang! Liam already had a knack for killer beat-craft, yet his Experience stuff was looser, often frenetic for frenzy’s sake. The beats in No Good, however, feel tighter and more propulsive than anything Liam had made before. It’s dance music with purpose and intent, from which much of Jilted Generation’s style took cues from.

Completing the ‘transformative’ act was the video. Early Prodigy videos were goofy and wacky, which suited the music Howlett was producing at the time fine. If he was taking his work back underground though, he needed a visual accompaniment that reflected his manifesto. Thus, what better setting for a proper illegal than an abandoned warehouse, complete with enthusiastic dancers (Flint and Thornhill included) and freaks of society (um, Flint again) inhabiting the place? Shot in black and white (sans some yellow in Maxim’s cat iris contact lenses), the strobe effects greatly enhance an already rough rave setting, the sort of party that continues to get romanticized as how the scene should be maintained. That said, I’ve no idea what the point of Howlett’s ‘Prodge Smash!’ bit at the end’s all about.

The Bad For You Mix is essentially the same song taken down typical techno-rave roads, while CJ Bolland’s Museum Mix digs deep into the 4am acid hole. Both are worthy rubs of the original, but not as memorable. Admit it, No Good’s been playing in your head the moment you saw the title.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Bandulu - Guidance

Infonet/Never Records: 1993/1996

While most of the UK were getting their rave hardcore techno on, one three-piece found themselves drawn to the source of it all, merry ol’ Detroit. Hey, if chaps from Germany and France could make American future-funk music, why not blokes from London too? These three men though - Jamie Bissmire, Lucien Thompson, and John O’Connell – couldn’t escape the musical melting pot that was the UK, immigrants from all the former empire’s old colonies bringing their sounds to the British underground as rave culture fostered bountiful creative growth. Some sound experiments flashed brilliantly, then swiftly died; others slowly burned and carry on to this day. Bandulu’s first album, Guidance, captures that period where it seemed nothing was off limits for UK techno.

Take the titular opener. What is it? Tribal? Trance? Techno? Dub? Progressive house? Oh, who cares – awesome is what it is, especially with a big bassline that’d leave Leftfield weak in the knees. That said, little else on Guidance hits the same perfect blend of genre soup quite like that cut does, the rest mostly focusing on those Detroit techno influences while keeping the open-air rave vibe going.

This leads to a lot of tunes sounding rather like trance, even earning them duty on a few early trance compilations before Bandulu went full dub techno. Revelation, a blissy space flight that would have gotten early Eye-Q’s attention; Peacekeeper works the loopy rhythms with echo washes (plus clap-action Oliver Lieb would be proud of); and Earth 6 is what early goa trance would have sounded like had the genre taken its cues from techno rather than industrial. As for the techno side of things, Messenger’s the groovy one, Gravity Pull’s the future-dystopian one, Flex is the Carl Craig inspired one (plus an added ethnic chant),Tribal Reign is the ‘experimental-Craig’ one, and Better Nation is the Carl Craig Innerzone Mix one. Yep, the Detroit don himself gets a credit on Bandulu’s debut – guess the London act’s influences didn’t go unnoticed in Old Techno Mecca at all. There’s also a downtempo-dub cut with Invaders, the sort of tune that undoubtedly earned Bandulu a bunch of gigs with Megadog.

So high praise abounds for Guidance, but here’s the caveat I must make with so much music from the early ‘90s: it’s rather dated. Bandulu as a group had yet to refine their production, thus many of the drum kits, synths, and samples are firmly rooted in that era of UK techno. Nothing’s outright tinny or anything, but clearly lacking the sonic finesse later works offered. Heck, as tracky as Cornerstone was, the music on there could at least still be played in a modern setting and few would be the wiser. Guidance, on the other hand, will have folks thinking of techno from the way back whens, the long long agos. All of which is fine should you have a fondness for this time and are looking for more neglected gems, as few techno LPs sound quite like Guidance, then or since.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Various - Greenosophy: Collected By Mizoo

Ultimae Records: 2012

What's Greenosophy's theme, exactly? The Fahrenheit Project series was straightforward enough, a showcase of Ultimae's roster and like-minded artists. Oxycanta had a 'sonic healing' thing going for it, and Ambrosia was a big, fat Greek party. Greenosophy, however, comes off little more than a compilation with a title that only exists because the other ones were either retired or in limbo. Heck, even the promo blurb isn't helpful in distinguishing this one. Regardez:

“Collected by our Swiss activist dj Cyril Miserez aka Mizoo, [ Greenosophy ] is a vibrant musical journey composed of eleven unique,hypnotic chapters. From deep ambient to lush progressive grooves, [ Greenosophy ] offers fresh chlorophyll visions, leafy rhythms and luxuriant melodies. Mizoo believes that music can develop a sense of empathy between people, philosophical reflections on our thoughts and acts; a point of view and a way of life he develops in this compilation.”

In other words, Mr. Mizoo made a mixtape.

Okay, that's not accurate. Greenosophy does have a small amount of uniqueness to it in how the music's arranged. It's rather like a DJ set in terms of musical flow, working a slow build, hitting a brisk prog-psy peak in the middle, and then ebbing away into chilled ambience. Makes sense, since Greenosophy was also the name of outdoor parties in Switzerland. And if Ambrosia was mostly a Greek showcase, this compilation’s all about the European melting pot.

There’s also a decent mix between Ultimae regulars and outside contributors too. Solar Fields shows up with Cobalt 2.0, and as Greenosophy came out the same year as Mr. Birgersson’s prog-psy album Random Friday, you bet this tune’s got ‘peak time in the psy tent’ all over it. Speaking of such settings, Cell’s Idea Spiral, an older ‘compilation-only’ tune, is presented to us in a lengthy live ‘edit’, nearly twelve minutes of mounting rhythms and evolving melodies growing upon each other. Miktek’s also here again with Flying Dots, marking his second straight compilation spot with Ultimae at that point. I think the label was growing fond of the Greek chap.

Plenty more musical avenues are explored on Greenosophy. Rildrim’s Tear-Blind Eye is all eerie atmosphere and paranoid bleeps – almost dark sci-fi ambient, with alien computers piercing the bleak black beyond. Getting into proper ambient techno territory with the touch o’ heavy dub is Liquid Stranger’s Minimum, while Ajja’s Nubian Sandstone takes the same aesthetic into prog-psy’s realm. James Murray, another Ultimae semi-regular, sets us on a meditative tribal-ambient path that TUU would nod approvingly for, and Cygna finishes things off with an almost New Agey soundscape of Broken Dream Of A Little Snail. D’aw, how perfectly twee.

Now that I think about it, Greenosophy’s remarkably diverse – guess that’s where I got that mixtape vibe from. I can’t say it’s an essential CD for chill-out collectors, but as with anything Ultimae, you won’t be disappointed should you spring for a copy.

(PS: I promise never to c+p PR blurbs again - reeks of laziness, it does)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bandulu - Cornerstone

Blanco Y Negro: 1996

Way back when, I figured I'd never find a Bandulu album. They seemed so distant, a part of a young, fertile UK techno scene hiding in the underground, gaining plenty of props from the press, but absolutely no support from major labels. What chance, then, could Teenage Sykonee have in stumbling upon an album from this intriguing dub-tribal-techno act on the other side of the world? In our regular shops, none chance I say, and certainly nothing even hinting at an affordable non-import price. These days though, it ain't no th'ang to pop on the Amazons, do a quick search, and see what comes up. This shit's getting too easy, nearly whatever my youthful desires may be but a few simple clicks away, all at reasonable prices. All the allure, mystique and that, turned into a mere passing phase of intrigue rather than a lingering impression.

I wonder, had I found Cornerstone sitting forgotten in a used CD shop in a trendy neighbourhood, how different my response to this album would be. This is Bandulu on the downswing from their early seminal work, going deeper into minimal techno and experimental dub. Most of these tracks are cool enough, a fair bit of variety between each cut. There’s reggae nods with Selah and Folly, Detroit funk in Deep Sea Angler, uptempo bangers like Weak Heart, loopy head-nodders like Trinity, pure dub experiments like Parasight and Protocols, and plenty more that run the gamut between them all. For such a limiting sonic palette, Cornerstone does offer plenty of diversity throughout.

And yet, as an album, Cornerstone’s just too tracky. Mind, it’s a complaint of many techno LPs, ones even today’s scene continuously suffers from - I’m looking at you, Ostgut Ton. I realize the mid-‘90s was when techno felt the need to go minimal, distancing itself from the raving sensibilities and song-craft that carried the genre earlier that decade, but it makes for frustrating albums if you’re after more than a dozen tools for a rinse-out. Bandulu probably realized this, mostly sticking with vinyl releases on their own short-lived Foundation Sound Works print afterwards. Still, I’ve no doubt the brisk reggae-dub techno vibes of Running Time or spacious soundscapes of Sting would sound great in live settings. Hell, Shroud and Jester would get all the plaudits if it were a name like Shed attached to them rather than an old-school UK techno act with rave roots.

That all said, the Bandulu name does carry enough pedigree and class that any of their albums are worth a look-listen. They were doing the dub-techno thing as early as Basic Channel ever were, and rode minimal’s early waves just as capably as your Jeff Mills or Robert Hoods did – don’t count these guys out because their albums are easier to find through the Amazons or Lord Discogs Marketplace, eh? Guidance is obviously their Most Important Album, but Cornerstone’s collection of dub-techno cuts should entice fans of this sound into seeking this LP out too.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Synergy - Cords

Third Contact: 1978/2013

Not sure why Larry Fast barely gets name-dropped when talk of '70s synth wizards goes down. He was right in the thick of things along with the Jarres and Hammers, even beating Tomita at the modern classical game with original compositions. Yet whereas the big ol' Vangelis gets to score classic movies like Bladerunner and Chariots Of Fire, poor Synergy manages goofy 'documentaries' like The Jupiter Menace. It's that lack of any chart-friendly material, isn't it? Too highfalutin in conceptualization as the years wore on, that was the problem.

Synergy initially started out as another kraut-prog rock project, though Fast, in a bit of piss-takery on the growing anti-synthesizer sentiment in the ‘real’ rock world, countered that his albums were “one-hundred percent guitar-free”. Even his first album’s title was a rib on rock-opera, Electronic Realizations For Rock Orchestra. It also got him noticed though, crafting a tidy decade-long career for the Synergy banner before Fast moved onto other pursuits.

Cords is the third Synergy album, where Fast (and one Peter Sobel) finally utilized guitars ...“sort of”, the liner notes clarifies. It’s also heavier on creating a conceptual whole of an LP, three iterations of a synthy fanfare titled On Presuming To Be Modern performed at the beginning, middle, and end of Cords. A two-parter titled Phobos And Deimos Go To Mars forms our proper first pieces of music, both utilizing deep pulsing synths as their rhythmic backbone - always cool to hear ‘drums’ before everyone started using Roland machines in their electronic compositions. As for the differences between Phobos and Deimos, the former is far chipper, basically space-synth in its primordial form (and style-bitten by Gatekeeper, apparently), whereas the latter goes darker, even sounding Arabic with its Moog modulations. Both work a cool yin-yang concept, and I remain baffled why no one points to these as essential tunes from this era.

The rest of Cords plays out as you’d expect a modern classical album from the ‘70s would. Good for me though, as I have the re-re-mastered version released just last year (2013), thus these synths sound big and beefy compared to how tinny releases from the time often come off. Some tracks, like Disruption In World Communications and A Small Collection Of Chords, wouldn’t be too out of place in a forest temple level of a 32-bit era jRPG. Fast also gets all Bach on us with Full Moon Flyer, a bit more proggy with Terra Incognita (hey, synthesizer guitar), then throws everything into the caboodle with Trellis.

It’s all neat sounding stuff if you’ve an ear for early synth music, but I can hear why it didn’t catch on the same way Fast’s peers did with the public. Though not unbearably obtuse, Cords’ pure classical leanings wasn’t something regular folks would get into – Hell, Tomita only got away with it by covering easily recognizable compositions. I give Fast all the credit in crafting his own music, but Cords is about as egg-headed as early space-synth gets.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Eat Static - Back To Earth

Interchill Records: 2008

Though Eat Static kept producing after Planet Dog's closure, they never found a proper home again, hopping from label to label with each new album. Perhaps oddest of these one-offs is Back To Earth, released on Canadian world-psy chill-beat label Interchill (West Coast reprazent!). To date, it remains the final Eat Static LP, produced after Joie Hintin had left the group, leaving Merv Pepler the sole member. That didn't prevent him from bringing in a few helping hands to these tunes, though I have to wonder if the radical change of tempo offered on here was part of Hintin's departure.

Yes, in case the Interchill association wasn't enough of a hint, Back To Earth is primarily Eat Static on the downbeat. Fair enough, many of their LPs have the odd chill track or two – perfect for album pacing between the tear-out sessions. Hell, some of the tunes all the way back on Abduction could be proto psy-chill, though honestly nearly anything from Planet Dog are contenders for that classification. However, as far as I know, Back To Earth is the first Eat Static full-length where the BPMs seldom break the 110 mark.

It’s also all over the place where genres are concerned. For sure the sci-fi leaning tunes make their dutiful appearances, standout Lo-Ride Sloucher an intriguing minimalist glitch-hop spin on the formula. Elsewhere, Holy Stone and Valley Of The Moon go deep into the psy-dub side of things while Up, Periscope harkens back to old school Static. Along the way, Pepler roped in System 7 mainstays Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy for a couple tunes, Pearl Of Wisdom and Dune Rider. The former’s one of the few uptempo tracks, settling into a bouncy house groove as spacey pads drift upon, occasionally broken up by vintage Eat Static sci-fi sound effects. Dune Rider, on the other hand, sounds more like a System 7 song, world beat rhythms and ethnic instrumentation the bulk of this tune (plus the requisite Hillage space-guitar diddling).

If you think that’s off the beaten Static path, then the rest of Back To Earth will throw you for a loop, Guru. Pharaoh sounds like late-era Juno Reactor with dense instrumentation befitting a Cirque de Soliel performance, and Epoch Calypso goes all, well, calypso on our asses, including acoustic guitars and trumpets – you sure Shpongle isn’t hiding around this tune? Then there’s Flippity Flippity, straight-up smokey nu-jazz, and The Wreckage, groovy trip-hop action - neither would sound out of place on a Ninja Tune collection. (Still with this label? I didn’t plan it, I swear!)

Back To Earth definitely is a love/hate sort of album. If you’ve no problem with genre free-wheeling and drastic stylistic changes, its solid enough, every tune well produced and worth a listen. As a straight-up Eat Static album though, I’m left wanting, wishing for more sci-fi action than what we get here. Still, the album’s title is apt, as music doesn’t get more Earthen than jazz, does it?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Various - Ambrosia: Selected By Fishimself

Ultimae Records: 2011

The possibility always existed it could happen, that Ultimae would somehow discover yet another A-Plus producer out there, or one of their regulars would find some untapped well of enthralling innovation. At this late stage though, having consumed about all there is in the label's back catalogue, I'd settled into the comfortable notion of Ultimae no longer stunning me with surprising excellence, remaining content with the continuous class they put out. Then along comes Ambrosia, and I'm floored yet again. How. Do. They. Do. It?

First things first: what exactly is Ambrosia, beyond the mythological reference? The year is 2011, and Ultimae had one of their biggest annuals ever: new albums from premier acts Aes Dana, Carbon Based Lifeforms (two, in fact!), and shortly Solar Fields, plus putting a proper capper on their long dormant Fahrenheit Project series. So the Ultimae faithful were more than sated by this point, and with Fahrenheit Project ending on a high, there wasn’t much need for a totally new compilation series, especially one featuring relative unknowns like One Arc Degree, Sygnals, Memphidos, Max Million and Miktek. And who even is this Fishimself anyway? Harris Papadimitriou, eh. Must be Greek. In fact, these other names sound Greek too. Wait a minute... Amborsia... ‘food of the Gods’. Oh, now I get it; this is a showcase of Greek producers with similar stylee to the Ultimae camp. *audience slow-claps Dumb-Ass Sykonee*

Only two of Ultimae’s regulars show up for Ambrosia. Aes Dana gives us another of his ‘industrial minimal trance’ tunes in Distant Industries, while Asura’s V.A.N.T.A. hints at what Enigma would have sounded like had Cretu started during the ambient-glitch era – and even that tune’s got something of a Grecian tone to it. Not sure if including Miktek as part of the ‘Ultimae regular’ banner is apt with this CD, since this was Mr. Aikaterinis’ debut on the label, though he definitely became a staple of their compilations ever after. He even gets two tracks on here, Light Trails and Ominous Ride, both in his now-familiar sombre style of spacious grey synth pads and soft downbeat rhythms. Guess Fishimself figured Miktek was due for breakout status among the chill-out promoters, if only given the chance.

None of this surprised me going into Ambrosia though, since I’m well familiar with these names already. Nay, what threw me for a loop were the other tracks, and how they helped add a fresh dynamic to the Ultimae soundscape. These are, without a doubt, some of the heaviest rhythms I’ve heard from this label. Opener Sub Strata from Max Million & Gusk alone has an omnipresent bassline grumbling throughout; meanwhile One Arc Degree’s Distant Industries almost dips into proper jungle territory by its end. The remainder tracks aren’t as rhythmically unique as those, but retain enough distinct grit between them they aren’t lost in the typical Ultimae soup.

Ambrosia’s a great little Greek producer showcase. Ultimae should do more compilations like this for other countries. How about Turkey?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Various - Ninja Tune: The Shadow Years

Shadow Records: 2001

In the sub-micro-niche commodity classification known as “Ninja Tune Showcases”, The Way Of The Ninja sits at one end of the spectrum – at the other end sits this. Way early in Shadow Records’ humble beginnings, the label got by in offering State-side distribution for several European records. Most were one-offs, but they did share a two-year partnership with Ninja Tune as a means of disturbing some of Coldcut’s label’s older material. Wow, Ninja working with Shadow, who’d see that coming?

Of course, Ninja Tune’s clout eventually grew big enough they handled their own American affairs, but Shadow still had rights to those older tracks as they saw fit to use them. With Shadow’s own clout never higher at the turn of the century, they also released a few Ninja back-catalog CDs as a means of earning a quick buck from an unsuspecting public. Okay, that’s a ridiculously cynical take on this compilation – I’m sure Shadow had all the best of intentions when putting this double-CD together. As a showcase of Ninja Tune’s repertoire, however, The Shadow Years is incredibly slight.

Yes, a 2-CD, eighteen track collection of Ninja Tune music come off underwhelming. Part of the problem is the small number of artists Shadow had to work with. For sure, most of the main players of Ninja Tune’s early years are accounted for: Coldcut, The Herbaliser, DJ Vadim, DJ Food, 9 Lazy 9, London Funk Allstars, Hedfunk, Funki Porcini, and Up, Bustle & Out are all repped. And of those nine artists, we get one song each on both CDs. Unfortunately, it’s not all their best material. I mean, of the Coldcut tunes Shadow could have selected, Eine Kleine Hed Musick and Atmoic Moog 2000 are the ones you go with? Not that I should have expected Autumn Leaves or Timber, but surely something a little less MOR from More and Black could have been included (for the record, I adore Eine Kleine Hed Musick, but for mostly personal reasons).

Truthfully, the selection of tunes here aren’t bad at all, all the downtempo genres Ninja Tune made their mark in given their moments. There’s trip-hop vibes from DJ Vadim and The Herbaliser, abstract broken-beats from Funki Porcini, funky ‘70s licks from DJ Food (I always picture Ninja Walk as the opening credits to a blaxploitation flick), and acid jazz grooves from 9 Lazy 9, London Funk Allstars and Up, Bustle & Out. In a way, The Shadow Years’ relative lack of material just goes to show how much Ninja Tune spoils us for music, names like Amon Tobin and Drome missing from this collection, to say nothing of extensive discographies of those who do show up here.

If you’re utterly raw to Ninja Tune and won’t spring for one of their boxsets, The Shadow Years is an adequate starter’s sampler. While it barely scratches the surface of even Shadow’s association with Ninja Tune, it does provide a quick glimpse into some of the label’s more seminal years.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

King Cannibal - Ninja Tune XX Presents: The Way Of The Ninja

Ninja Tune: 2010

70 Minutes Of Madness? This one’s insanity, two-hundred fifty-six tunes utilized, some barely for a second's worth of sample. This isn't a DJ mix in the traditional sense, but rather an overambitious collage celebrating Ninja Tune's twentieth anniversary, ramming and jamming as many cuts and blends possible so no one significant is left behind. And while King Cannibal was at it, here's the sub-labels getting repped too: Big Dada, N-Tone, and Counter. Can’t deny Mr. Richards’ passion for this project, but can there be fault in the final product?

Depends how you approach The Way Of The Ninja. As a DJ set highlighting all the Ninja Tune, it’s far too stuffed with content for any sustained flow. The label made their name with acid jazz, trip-hop, turntablisism, and other down-low soulful-funky genres of the ‘90s, and even as their influence waned, they kept their fingers on the pulse of new developments - dubstep, grime, and even indie rock found homes within Ninja Tune’s archives, always signing music and acts beyond class. Just as well, then, that The Cannibalistic Lord divided everything up into uniquely titled sections featuring specific genres or highlighting certain artists. Including the Intro, Way Of The Ninja has twenty of these mini-megamixes within the mix. And remember, there’s two-hundred fifty-six individual tracks used, all crammed into these indexes. This CD, it’s full of musics!

The Intro track alone, at just under two minutes long, has nineteen bits and pieces listed. The shortest track on here, subtitled Big Tunes, Big Hits, runs a minute-twenty and has a ‘mere’ eight tunes, including two mixes of More Beats & Pieces. Meanwhile, the lengthiest one, Welcome To Our Ageing Sideshow, clocks in at the heftier side of six minutes, also with nineteen tunes squeezed in (ooh, Timber’s in this one!). Hell, two more chunks, I Wanna See All The Hands and Tings Get Heat Up, Rewound And Torn Down hold about the same number of tracks, with a mere four minutes of run-time. So much musics, man, just so much musics.

Artists? Coldcut, Amon Tobin, Herbaliser, Roots Manuva, DJ Vadim, Mr. Scruff, DJ Food, Hexstatic, Bonobo, Neotropic, The Bug, Sixtoo, Jaga Jazzist, Super Numeri, Funki Porcini, Qemists, Cujo, Spank Rock, Thunderheist, Fink, 2 Player, Wagon Christ, Anti Pop Consortium- Look, I’ll be here forever if I list off the near-entirety of the Ninja Tune roster. Same with pointing out specific tracks, although obviously not every single song’s on here. And, while King Cannibal tries giving many their due, some get cut short (no Irresistible Force, what?) or have barely a token sample tossed in. For instance, I was gutted the bass drop of his own Flower Of Flesh And Blood never materialized. Wow, I actually missed a dubstep drop. Crazy.

So’s The Way Of The Ninja. It’s a fun CD if you want to relive so much Ninja Tune in a short amount of time, but best treated as a novelty rather than a proper showcase of the label’s rich history.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Paolo Mojo - Nightlaw / Home (Original TC Review)

Oosh: 2008

(2014 Update:
Though I mention otherwise in the review, I think the
real reason I checked this single out was due to it being the latest one I noticed at Juno Records. As for why cover Paolo Mojo at all, he truly did seem like a house-producer on the rise (the Balance bump obviously helped), but he's since subsided into a comfortable role of above-average, mostly unremarkable consistency so many house DJ/producers are wont to do.

He's also continued keeping up with the trends as each emerges in the various house scenes. Some of his final Oosh material featured the brief tribal-tech sound Radio Slave and Luciano made noteworthy following minimal's collapse (not to mention his own label's demise). Moving to digital, he's now releasing deep house and garage on 303Lovers, because of course he would. He started out with progressive house and electro house when those were in vogue too, didn't he? Man, bandwagon jump, much?)

IN BRIEF: Mojo goes minimal.

When Paolo Mojo (Paul Brimson to the government) contributed to Balance a couple years back with its ninth edition, it helped cement that DJ mix series as one of the freshest and most welcome upstarts around, and definitely one to keep an eye on for future releases. Much can be said of Mojo’s productions as well. His breakout single 1983 tickled the fancy of those enjoying proper retro-electro takes on house music (having an Eric Prydz remix attached to it didn’t hurt either) and the UK resident has built up a respected reputation with subsequent releases following a similar aesthetic. Fortunately, Mojo’s wise enough to not continue rehashing his previous successes and this year of 2008 has seen him take on minimal attributes with his tech house (plinkin’ an’a plongin’ an’a white noisin’ alongin’).

He’s put out a few singles in the past few months but for the time being, let’s focus specifically on this one containing the two tracks Nightlaw and Home. Why, you ask? Because, I reply, this was about where Mojo fully dove into minimal’s possibilities, so it’s a good talking point.

Funnily enough, Nightlaw is at its best when it isn’t fiddling around with minuscule minutia. The opening two-and-a-half minutes amount to not much of anything as basic rhythms with thick bass are laid out, which is rather generous mix-in layering time. Once we’re through with that, however, a hooky melody emerges and gradually builds in prominence, eventually capping off with a breakdown-and-snare-roll combo as klaxons blast from the distance. Sounds like a great climax, right? It’s somewhat disappointing, then, that given the lead-up and the initial strength of the actual drop, Nightlaw’s release isn’t as powerful as it could have been. It’s like a lidded pot is boiling over, and just as you think it’s about to erupt, it instead gives a quick burst of hissing steam, then calmly settles back down into a simmer. I want to throw my arms in the air but I’m only compelled to give an enthusiastic shrug, as though I’m trying to cover club-BO from my armpits. Ah well.

Home is all about build-up too, but because it is dominated by rhythm (melody is practically non-existent in this one), that sense of missed potential at the peaks isn’t quite as prominent. In fact, as a set piece, Home is highly effective, making use of a ‘double-build’ arrangement set to beats that march along in fine form. While a higher BPM would give this some more energy, I don’t think Mojo had peak-time tech-house banger in mind for this b-side, especially since that’s obviously more Nightlaw’s territory.

These aren’t Mojo’s strongest efforts but as a stab at style-biting Dubfire, he easily trumps the former Deep Dish man. He’s managed to find a comfortable niche within minimal tech circles and will undoubtedly ride this current trend with credibility intact.

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

Boney M. - Nightflight To Venus ('Proper' Review)

Song BMG Music Entertainment: 1978/2007

Okay, let's critique this for realsies. Does Nightflight To Venus hold up? Was Frank Farian a mad musical genius or German hack? Why do we forgive Boney M.'s lip-syncing, but ruthlessly crucify the latter Farian-helmed project, Milli Vanilli? Actually, that last one's easily answered: Milli Vanilli won Grammys, while Boney M. did not. Fool the common plebs of music consumers all you want, but don't you dare make a mockery of the Grammys!

It's not like Farian planned a career of studio lurking while pretty boys and girls pranced about on stages, quite content remaining anonymous. Despite a love of funk, disco, soul, reggae, and other contemporary black music, his being way German wouldn't fly with traditional audiences of those scenes. So hiding in the studio suited him fine, but then his Boney M. project got ridiculously popular within a few short years, and a demand for live performances and telecasts forced him to create the stage act we associate with the name. Why not appear live himself? He wouldn’t be taken seriously, of course, unlike having lip-syncers ‘perform’ the music instead. 1970s, you so wacky.

Nightflight To Venus came out when Boney M. was at the height of their popularity, Farian’s perfect blend of disco-pop and euro-reggae having won the ears and hearts of thousands across the continent. How’s a crafty German follow upon such success? Get totally conceptual on the masses’ asses! Well, not too conceptual, but the first two tracks have to rank up there with some of the ballsiest moves a disco-pop producer could open an album with.

Though hopping on the super-hot sci-fi bandwagon with the titular cut wasn’t unprecedented, the fact Farian would craft such a loopy, tribal rhythm had to catch the Boney M. faithful off-guard. Add in marching drums and clapping “Hey! Hey!”s, and it feels as though you’re a part of the Soviet Verena missions to Venus. For that matter, Farian must have had a brief fascination with the Russians, carrying the rhythms through to Rasputin so whatever theme he’d created with Nightflight To Venus was maintained. As for one of the biggest disco-pop hits ever, can you imagine a song about a Russian monk hitting the top of today’s dance charts? Hell, anything with an historical story involved? Utterly, brilliantly daft and genius, that Farian be.

The other big single off here, Rivers Of Babylon, plays more to the group’s Caribbean charms, inoffensive music often emanating from radios, though anyone deeply versed in reggae won’t find much of interest there. And if I’m honest, that’s also true for the disco cuts He Was A Steppenwolf and Voodoonight. Farian does have a way with a hook though, and slick production chops that you can’t help but find yourself grooving to. It’s the sort of music most DJs wouldn’t mind playing as part of a fun mixtape, the unheralded album tracks that somehow work against all odds. Go on, admit your unabashed adoration for Boney M. Rasputin compels you to...

Monday, June 16, 2014

Boney M. - Nightflight To Venus (Anecdotal 'Review')

Song BMG Music Entertainment: 1978/2007

Say what you want about Boney M. – and believe me, you won't be saying anything new – it's undeniable their popularity's endured thanks to Frank Farian's impeccable production chops and savvy marketing. Hell, it sure worked for me, Nightflight To Venus an irresistible concept to a kid just discovering things like Star Wars and other cool space-orientated- ack, no, no! I won’t turn this review into an endless parade of anecdotes. My self-imposed word count doesn’t allow for it. Okay, focus, focus...

Nope, not happening. I’m not getting through this review without dropping more. Sure, I could be all professional and shit about Nightflight To Venus, but there’s no fun in that. I’ve so many stories tied to this record, so many memories as a kid listening to it. You know what, screw it. I’m going all the way down Anecdote Alley here, and if that’s a problem, come back tomorrow where I’ll deal with the album proper-like. I gotta’ get this nostalgia outta’ my system, folks.

Nightflight To Venus is undeniably ground zero for my enjoyment of so many things musically: catchy hooks and harmonies, DJ mixes, dance rhythms, space-themed music, and Neil Young. For a kid getting into sci-fi, the titular opener was utter catnip for a fruitful imagination. Those robot voices, sound effects, gnarly guitar licks, and thumping rhythms was unlike anything I’d heard before, purely driven by a concept than actual song writing. Then it kept going into a totally different song about a bizarre Russian named Rasputin, with some of ear-wormiest hooks I’d ever heard. It blew my young mind you could even do that with music, make two separate tunes seem like one! And those awesome choruses are filled throughout Nightflight To Venus, some with lyrics that seem almost intended to be sung along with by kids (Painter Man, Rivers Of Babylon, Brown Girl In The Ring).

What’s elevated Nightflight To Venus above so many other albums of my young life, however, is the fact it was the first record I recall listening to front-to-back, and aside from Raffi’s Baby Beluga (shaddap), would remain the only one I would repeatedly do so for many years. For as much as I enjoyed The Police’s records too, I still could only ever get through half a Side A before getting bored. While Boney M.’s fun music was part of my willingness to go the distance, the fact one of my favourite songs on the album, Heart Of Gold, was at the end, forced me to sit patiently through the whole record to hear it (the original’s country? No way, this is the real version!). Even the slower ‘message’ song before it, Never Change Lovers In The Middle Of The Night, couldn’t deter me from waiting in anticipation for those wonderful vocal harmonies and funky disco guitar licks emerging. It instilled a listening habit that persists to this day, of appreciating albums as collective wholes rather than jumping from song to song. Well done, Nightflight To Venus. Well done.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

John O'Callaghan - Never Fade Away (Original TC Review)

Armada Digital: 2009

(2014 Update:
John O'Callaghan's kept himself busy in the euro-trance scene, a name often dropped among those who feel he's among a few DJs and producers still keeping the old-school vibe alive, resistant to jumping on the latest electro, anthem house, or hardstyle-in-hiding bandwagon. To this, I have to ask, "Da'fuq!? The
Big Sky guy, really? One of the most blatant crossover vocal anthems to emerge in the last half-decade, and you're championing him as one of your saviors of the underground? Have you really grown so desperate?" Chaps like J00F, Lolo, and John Askew, I can see, but not O'Cally, not after this album. Unless he was initially pressured by Armada after signing with them to make such music, which I could totally see happening given the label's ridiculous homogeny at the time.

I guess I shouldn't be too hard on him - after all, I gave him the benefit of the doubt going into this album, having enjoyed
Something To Live For. I probably go on a bit too much about that aspect in this review (to say nothing of yet another overlong explanation of a now-pointless rating). And if I'm honest, I've lightened up a little on Big Sky, at least on the lyrical front. The other vocal tunes are still pants though.)

IN BRIEF: After a bigger piece of the vocal trance pie.

It’s not that a writer won’t get hate-mail for negative reviews of popular-but-poor releases – that’s common. Yet, the content of such ‘letters’ oftentimes has an acceptant tone to it, as though the hate-mailer knows the music is of lesser quality but doesn’t care one way or the other. The matter is then quietly dismissed and everyone moves on. Nay, the really controversial reviews are those that are generally accepted as poor, but the reviewer actually likes.

Without getting into the numerous examples of such here at TranceCritic, I’ll just touch upon the one that pertains to this review: John O’Callaghan’s first album, Something To Live For. I liked it. Sure, it was far from a brilliant album, but as a collection of simple, energetic epic trance and bangin’ tech-trance, it was enjoyable. In fact, I found it downright nostalgic, as O’Cally recaptured some of the spirit of the genre’s raise in prominence near the end of the ‘90s. For whatever reason though, a great many folks out there hated it, as poor ol’ John became an unofficial whipping boy of all that’s gone wrong with trance in recent years.

The reason I bring this up is, if anyone here could give O’Callaghan’s latest album - Never Fade Away - a fair shake, it’d probably be me, as I have no previous anti-bias against his work going in. However, what we have on this CD is much different than what was offered on Something To Live For, as O’Cally has promptly abandoned much of his previous sound in favor of something far more financially lucrative.

It’s quite pointless to accuse him of selling out because John knows full well it’s what he’s done. And who can blame him? When the sales of the post-Something… single Big Sky (included here in a ballad version) were far exceeding material like Space & Time, the writing was clearly on the wall: if you want to make it in this industry, produce tracks with vocals. And boy has he ever.

Eight of the twelve tracks on this album feature vocalists, all female. Although a few are fairly known in the scene (Audrey Gallagher, Sarah Howells, Lo-Fi Sugar), they’re all pretty interchangeable, with lyrics consisting of your usual simple couplets regarding love and such. Inoffensive material for the most part, although if the thought of over-emoting choruses sends cold shivers down your spine, you’d best stay well away. Truthfully, there isn’t anything particularly wrong with these choruses – they’re catchy enough that they’ll lodge inside your head as they play, but will promptly fade away shortly after (which makes the title of this album hilariously ironic). There’s very little about these vocal tunes that lift them above the usual euro-trance glut.

And unfortunately, that’s the biggest problem to be had with this album: O’Cally’s complete lack of personality as a producer. Were you to lodge any of these vocal tracks into a Trance Divas compilation, they’d promptly be lost amongst the Mike Shivers, Ronski Speeds, Langes, Above & Beyonds, and any other notable vocal-fluff femme-trance producer. There is absolutely nothing here that makes you say, “This is the John O’Callaghan sound!” Rather, it’s the sound of simple and safe production so a licensing company can come along and pick any one of these tracks for their Euro Vocal Trance Ibiza Voice compilation. This may work to O’Cally’s favor if he ends up sharing compilation duty with the likes of Cascada or Lasgo, but not with his newfound roster-mates at Armada.

There’s one stretch on here where O’Callaghan does exhibit a musical persona, with the blissy three-track run of Out Of Nowhere, Never Fade Away, and Tom Colontonio-collaboration Through The Light. This is perfectly pleasant music, touching on the tranquil Ibizan-tinged trance vibes that makes light-weight fluff such as this a guilty pleasure for many (although Never Fade Away is actually more of a ballad). Granted, it’s just as safe and unsurprising as anything else here, but I challenge even the bitterest trance-cynic out there to not enjoy the sequence of these three songs at some level.

So, with this many perfectly average pop-trance tunes on here, this should earn Never Fade Away a perfectly average 5/10 score –yet, the final grade is actually lower than this, and, perhaps surprisingly, is primarily due to the non-vocal cuts. Aside from the aforementioned Through The Light, these tracks are generic in the worst sense of the word. Heck, Broken is bordering on parody, coming off like a desperate attempt on O’Cally’s part to prove ‘he can stills be tough tech-trancer’; despite a killer hook being hinted at in the breakdown, it just meanders about with dull bangin’ beats. Meanwhile, Liquid Fire and Megalith sound like left-over ideas collaborators Giuseppe Ottaviani and Aly & Fila had for other tracks, while Don’t Look Back is a rehash of the much better Through The Light. Bottom line is if you’ve been listening to trance for even a year, these will sound utterly over-familiar, with O’Cally’s lack of production personality hobbling their appeal more than ever.

Then again, I kind of doubt this album is intended for the veteran trancer. Nay, it’s primarily for the new kids on the scene whom have ‘graduated’ from the likes of Milk Inc., Scooter, and ‘donk’ music. And that’s absolutely fine, especially so since O’Callaghan has specifically targeted this audience anyway. The trouble with his album, however, is in a field with so many others catering to this crowd, plus dozens of similarly-themed compilations readily available any given month, ol’ John hasn’t done anything here to make Never Fade Away stand out – in fact, he’s gone out of his way to sound exactly like every other euro-trance producer out there. If you’re in the market for this particular genre, you’d be better off picking up a random Armada compilation, since O’Callaghan’s simply copying the label’s biggest producers anyway.

Written by Sykonee for, 2009. © All rights reserved.

The Irresistible Force - Nepalese Bliss

Ninja Tune: 1998

Won't front, I was disappointed in this single. Totally my fault, of course, expecting Nepalese Bliss to show as much diversity as the Fish Dances EP, but I failed to realize the two are totally different wee-beasts. Fish Dances was more of a mini remix album, nicking various tunes from It's Tomorrow Already for re-rub duty rather than a sole focus on a single song. Hell, another remix of Nepalese Bliss was added to Fish Dances, as though there just wasn't enough room on its own single! Perhaps so if we're dealing with the vinyl version, plus it's possible a couple more remixing names were drawn in after the fact, missing the initial street date of the album's lead single.

Yeah, far as Lord Discogs can tell me, Nepalese Bliss was intended as an introduction of Mixmaster Morris’ style to the Ninja Tune, just in case a full album was too much to digest all at once. Released a month before It's Tomorrow Already hit the streets, this track’s about the closest thing on it at capturing the jazz-hop sound Coldcut's label grew famous for. Heck, Mr. Irresistible Force probably produced it specifically with their audience in mind, because the regular Ninja followers sure weren't likely to give a psychedelic ambient-techno noodler much care otherwise. Here, just try out some Nepalese Bliss, it’s like that ganja smoke you toke, only more, more, more so. Well, the voice-over claims it’s the street term for hashish with streaks of opium ash in it, definitely a vibe the acid jazz folks could dig on in their dens.

To further sell The Irresistible Force upon their dedicated clientele, Ninja Tune brought in two of their heaviest hitters for the rubs, DJ Food and Amon Tobin. As part of the label since its inception, it’s little surprise the Fooded Ones (Strictly Kev, plus Patrick Carpenter at this point in the project’s life) go deeper into the deep acid jazz vibes: less psychedelic flashes, more smoky haze. Amon being Amon, it’s all about the dip and drop into trip-hop skunk – something a bit heavy in that cut of Nepalese bliss, methinks. Fila Brazillia were also brought in from Pork Records for an upbeat funky nu-jazz remix, because it’s Fila Brazillia, and that’s just what they does.

So the music’s fine on this EP, but as mentioned, rather pedestrian as a package. The remixers offer exactly what you’d expect of the names, and I’ve no idea why a Radio Edit would be included here – Hell, would anything from Mixmaster Morris ever get airplay? No, modern micro-niche internet radio streams don’t count. This was the late ‘90s, yo’, this music’s only ridin’ proper AM or FM waves out there. Still, one curious thing about the CD inlay is how there are seams creating twenty-one equal-sized rectangles, as though intended for separation and used as a make-shift puzzle pieces of the cover. Cool idea if so, but wouldn’t that devalue the single’s resell worth on the used market?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Neil Young - Archives, Vol. 1: Disc 8 - North Country (1971-1972)

Reprise Records: 2009

“Mr. Young, you've achieved fame and fortune before your Thirties, have achieved more in a decade's worth of music than most could hope for in a lifetime, performed with a multitude of talented musicians covering a wide range of rock, country, folk, and even a God damned symphony while in London. What do you plan on doing next?”

“I'm gonna' get me a ranch, and get away from all you spazzes.”

Well, okay, he didn't say exactly that, but he was inching ever closer to diving “for the ditch”, as Young so eloquently put it in a few short years. The final music disc of Archive, Vol. 1 is almost bittersweet in how it caps off the box-set at the absolute peak of ol' Shakey's commercial success, most of his material from Harvest accounted for. That's another album I've already reviewed, so check that one out for the particular details of how his most popular record came into being. The only additions from the Stray Gators sessions that didn't appear on Harvest include Bad Fog Of Loneliness, Journey Through The Past, and an extended take of Words (Between The Lines Of Age). I think this material was featured in Young's movie soundtrack, but I never bought that, despite the allure of having Young and a rare-ish Beach Boys tune on the same record!

Another live recording of Heart Of Gold starts out North Country (1971-1972), included as evidence for his admittance at having little prior experience using a mounted harmonica (I guess). The back end of Disc 8 includes a couple more examples of Neil’s “heavy political material” in Soldier and War Song with Graham Nash (what, no Crosby or Stills?). And that’s it, the end of Archives, Vol. 1. We’re done, over, finished. Boy, that week blew by fast. Thank God though, as I couldn’t take much more Neil in such a single sitting again. I enjoy his music, but not that I must hear it all the time.

Is this where I absolutely, definitely, positively recommend this box set? No, of course not - only a hardcore Rustie should bother with Archives, Vol. 1. If you do intend to take the plunge based on hearing a few songs from this era, I still wouldn’t recommend it much as an exploratory dive-in point – checking out the albums is a safer bet. That said, Archives, Vol. 1 is handy in gathering all his disparate output into one, tidy package, and the sound quality can’t be beat if you spring for the DVD or Blu-Ray bundle. Plus, every track has a different custom ‘video’ crafted for it, a short film of either a record (official release), reel-to-reel (previously unreleased material), or other medium (cassette tape, 8-track (lol)) playing in a unique setting surrounded by pertinent memorabilia – yes, even for minute-long ditties like Cripple Creek Ferry. With one-hundred twenty-eight tracks total, that’s a remarkable amount of affection and care given in presenting Young’s material. Would any self-respecting Rustie expect less?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Neil Young - Archives, Vol. 1: Disc 6 - Topanga 3 (1970)

Reprise Records: 2009

Despite taking a step back from the limelight, Neil Young once again found himself a very important person in the world of American rock. It'd only been half-a-decade since he sought music fortune in Los Angeles, and he'd accomplished more commercially and creatively than most could have ever hoped for in that time, even for the fruitful '60s. What else could he do beyond being part of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, one of the country's most popular bands?

“How about scoring a movie?” suggested Young's Topanga neighbour Dean Stockwell. Yes, that Dean Stockwell, who'd been interested in scripting and filming a movie called After The Goldrush. It piqued ol' Shakey's interest enough to start writing a few tunes for it, and though the film never materialized, some of the intended music turned out to be some of the highlights of Young's album of the same name (Tell Me Why, After The Goldrush, Don’t Let It Bring You Down). It also sparked his creativity ever further, vivid lyrics compared to songs past, and unafraid at stretching his limited vocal range into areas yet attempted. You can really hear him crackling the high notes in After The Goldrush for the first time, exposing a naked sincerity to his music.

The other two standouts from these sessions are Southern Man and When You Dance, I Can Really Love, capturing Young and his Crazy Horse band in full-on swagger musically. Added to the mix is seventeen year old Nils Lofgren, a budding guitarist that’d been something of an understudy to Young. In what had to been either crazy brilliant or brilliantly crazy, Neil suggested Nils play piano for these songs, an instrument lil’ Lofgren had no prior experience with. The kid fuckin’ smashed it! That’s Mr. Young for you though, so often bringing the best out of those around him.

Also, something must have lit a bug up his ass, because Young got incredibly political at this point in his career – post hippie activism, I guess. Southern Man was already an incendiary condemnation of, well, southern redneck ‘justice’ and treatment of African-Americans. Then the Kent State shooting occurred, and within days, Young was calling upon his super-group brothers-in-arms Crosby, Stills, and Nash, ready to unleash an incendiary attack on Nixon for the travesty (Ohio). After all, if you’re being billed a very important rock band, might as well use that platform to get a very important message out there too. It’s a trick the group would do again while touring together as Young was promoting his Living With War album during Bush Jr.’s administration.

Some live stuff from CSNY round out the rest of Topanga 3 (1970), including a bit of silly stage banter while struggling with a bass guitar set-up. After fuffing about, Neil says, “We’d like to do a serious song now.” “Some of our heavy political material,” Stills deadpans. “This song of Neil’s got us thrown right out of Kuwait.” Ohio? Nope, Tell Me Why. Oh, those jokers.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Neil Young - Archives, Vol. 1: Disc 4 - Topanga 2 (1969-1970)

Reprise Records: 2009

Having gotten the solo stylee out of his system, Neil Young finished off his modest first tour and high-tailed it back to Topanga. He had unfinished business with that Crazy Horse trio of Danny Whitten, Ralph Molina, and Billy Talbot he stole from The Rockets, an album with them to complete after enjoying such an invigorating first session that saw Down By The River and Cowgirl In The Sand emerge. Having spent some time properly preparing for new recordings, the songs written were far shorter, less about extended rock jams and such. The big tune off this outing was Cinnamon Girl, and if you’ve still yet to hear it after I explicitly told you to in the Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere review… Well, now you have no excuse. Ignore my recommendation once, shame on you, ignore my recommendation twice, double-shame on you!

This second recording session included a few more songs that ended up on the group’s first album, plus a handful more that would fill out Young’s second solo outing After The Goldrush. Crazy Horse were also working on their own album, which would have the fun country-stomp romp of Dance Dance Dance as a highlight even though Young often played it solo too. On Disc 4 is a ridiculously charming drunken hoe-down version – what’s even going on with those hi-hats? Love it!

While back in Topanga, his old musical comrade/nemesis Stephen Stills from the Springfield got in touch with Neil about joining his current band, Crosby, Stills & Nash, the idea they’d become an American super-rock group that could creatively rival anyone from the UK. Okay, maybe it’s just my being of a totally younger generation, but really? Neil Young’s awesome, no doubt, and Stills plus David Crosby were undeniably at the height of their musical potential in the late ‘60s, but I’ve a difficult time believing this group was anything close to The Beatles or The Who. Then again, Stills and Young did have the same creative synergy going for them that Lennon and McCartney had, so who knows, maybe they were onto something after all.

The other half of Topanga 2 (1969-1970) mostly features tunes recorded in anticipation for the first CSNY tour, including their performance of Sea Of Madness at Woodstock. Oh yeah, Young was at Woodstock, because of course he would be, though he mostly kept out of sight even when on stage. Guess he hadn’t gotten over that ‘too big an audience’ hang-up he had that led him to playing coffee houses in the first place. Dammit, he wouldn’t have this problem if he would just stop making great music, but Young never lets his creativity sit fallow for long.

Anyhow, the CSNY tunes on Topanga 2 are nice, vastly more studio polished compared to the Crazy Horse stuff. Can’t say I’m much of a fan of this super-group, at least with the songs Young initially contributed. Shortly though, he’d kick out one of their all-time classics.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Neil Young - Archives, Vol. 1: Disc 3 - Live At The Riverboat 1969

Reprise Records: 2009

There's quite the romanticism associated with Neil Young's first year of solo gigs - the 'purity' of audience connectivity in small, intimate venues, places where a musician with any sort of star-ascent is unable to perform in. 1968 and ‘69 were about the only years Young could have done such shows once he broke away from his Buffalo Springfield fame, still a relatively unknown entity beyond being the kooky guy with a ridiculously long leather tassel jacket. Even with a debut album to tour with, he could get away with the small-time vibe of coffee houses, the lack of big singles beyond his Springfield output keeping him on the fringes of folk-rock interests. Thus CDs like Sugar Mountain - Live At Canterbury House 1968 and Live At Cellar Door (recorded 1970) are wonderful bits of Shakey artefacts, the last performances where you can picture Neil sitting but a dozen feet from you, casually chit-chatting with a genteel audience playing from a very small selection of songs he'd written to that point.

Live At The Riverboat 1969 is a significant performance from Young, in that it marked his first return to Toronto after his westward exodus. In but two years later, he’d be playing Massey Hall, but at this point in his career, the tiny Riverboat coffee house was more than enough to draw in locals who remembered him from his Squires days ...haha, no, as with everyone else, they likely knew of his music through Buffalo Springfield. Half his set list features songs written those years (I Am A Child, Expecting To Fly, Broken Arrow, etc.), and most of the rest is from his self-titled debut. Its nice hearing acoustic versions of some of the over-produced tunes like Broken Arrow and The Old Laughing Lady, though not essential pieces of music for casual Rusties.

And honestly, there’s not much difference between Live At The Riverboat and Live At Canterbury House. Not that Young had a huge discography at this point for eclectic acoustic playlists, but there’s little incentive to have this recording beyond being a charming addition to Archives, Vol. 1. Okay, the audience rapport’s funny too, tales of the odd necessity for musicians to make ‘dope songs’, bizarre medical practices, a shout-out to Bruce Palmer in the audience, and a bit of fun playing five-second children’s jingles like 1956 Bubblegum Disaster (“It took me three years to write that one.”).

Ooh, spare word count - let’s talk about the DVD presentation! Live At The Riverboat’s an odd one, practically a study in minimalist film making. It features a solitary reel-to-reel atop a stool running under a low spotlight, an acoustic guitar resting beside it, a couple microphones nearby, tables with candle-lights glowing in the surrounding darkness, and scattered playlist notes on the ground. The camera angles and focus change up between songs, so it’s not one long take either. I cannot deny the setting imparts a remarkably nostalgic twinge of times past (re: reel-to-reels fascinated Toddler Sykonee).

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Neil Young - Archives, Vol. 1: Disc 2 - Topanga 1 (1968-1969)

Reprise Records: 2009

Being a part of Buffalo Springfield greatly benefited Neil Young’s development as a musician, even if he quickly turned sour to the whole experience. It gave him the chance to bounce ideas off equally creative musicians, gaining confidence in his writing and performing as large Los Angeles crowds cheered at the Springfield’s shows. That Canadian-bred humbleness hadn’t prepared him for such intense success and adulation so quickly though, and Young frequently no-showed band gigs at the height of their popularity (health problems didn’t help either). So the break-up was inevitable, but whereas his former band mates formed or joined other bands, Young retreated to the solo circuit, including a move to a super-hippie enclave outside Los Angeles called Topanga.

We’re also entering the years of ol’ Shakey’s proper album output now, which Archives borrows liberally from. The good news here is, if you’ve only been a casual collector of Young’s music and skipped out on some of his less-regarded LPs (*cough*), this’ll fill out those musical gaps nicely. If you’ve been thorough in your Young collecting though (*double-cough*), Archives at least provides a proper, spiffy-fresh re-master of his material, much of which hadn’t seen much care since their original recordings (much less a decent digital transfer).

Though Young had retreated to the casual clime of Topanga and folksy gigs, he kept busy by putting together his self-titled debut. Neil Young sounds very little like anything else in his discography, in that it’s surprisingly overproduced; or “over-dubbed”, as Young put it. The Old Laughing Lady and I’ve Loved Her So Long, for instance, features string sections and backing gospel girls along with your standard folk-band arrangements. Okay, not a drastic difference compared to some of his other works, but something’s lost in piecing together his music like that: the spontaneity and soul that defines so much of Young’s appeal. Of the tunes included on Topanga 1 (1968-1969) that were culled from Neil Young, only The Last Trip To Tulsa captures the stripped-back folk-narrative style you’d expect.

Fortunately during this time, Young had started hanging around a band name The Rockets – or as they came to be known, Crazy Horse. I’ve already detailed how that turned out in Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, from which the titular cut, Down By The River, and Cowgirl In The Sand appears on here. Hearing these following the Neil Young material, it’s astounding the difference that ‘ragged live’ energy Crazy Horse provides Young’s music. No longer tentative and deferring to producers, the music’s strident, confident, and kinetic.

Also on Topanga 1 are a couple alternate takes of other Neil Young tunes, and part of the Live At Canterbury House gig that includes Sugar Mountain and Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing. I assume these two songs are here as contrast to the demo recordings of the same songs found on Disc 0, demonstrating how far he’d come as a musician in half a decade. Yeah, he’d developed some skill. Just wait for the next five years though.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Neil Young - Archives, Vol. 1: Disc 1 - Early Years (1966-1968)

Reprise Records: 2009

So westward Neil Young went, piling into an old hearse-mobile with friend Bruce Palmer in search of better musical prospects. Oh yeah, before that, the two were briefly in a Motown band called The Mynah Birds, fronted by Rick F'n James. While nothing ever came of it, folks love pointing it out as one of the 'small world' tidbits of musical trivia. I'm only pointing it out because I'll get heck if I don't. So there it is.

Also a necessary tale-drop is how Young and Palmer found their pal Stephen Stills in Los Angeles. After crossing nearly a full continent, they had no place to stay, no money, no way of getting in touch with their contacts, and no direction. Just as they were ready to give up hope and head northward, they spotted Stills while sitting ‘still’ in a traffic jam (oh ho-ho, such a clever pun *slaps self*). Divine intervention? Not really, since the odds of such an occurrence aren’t that astronomical if hopeful musicians were known to congregate in certain neighbourhoods. Still, it is a remarkable fluke their crossing of paths did happen at all when you consider this was well long before the age of cell-phones, internet, and most other forms of communications easing our means of perpetual contact today.

Anyhow, the band Buffalo Springfield formed. If the name seems familiar, it’s likely from one of two reasons: you’ve heard their music on a classic rock radio station (probably For What It’s Worth, also known as the “everybody look what’s going down” song you always hear in ‘Nam or hippie movies), or you saw Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. For their full story, check out the Buffalo Springfield Box Set, or maybe a Rolling Stone retrospective article. Archives, Vol. 1 only focuses on the music Neil Young had a major part in writing, even if he didn’t always get to sing on his songs. I think that’s why that way-early demo version of Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing was included on the previous disc – proof that, yo, he did writes the original Buffalo single before he even joined the band.

The songs on Disc 1, Early Years (1966-1968) include such Young staples as Mr. Soul and I Am A Child, plus Bison Shelbyville classics like chipper Burned (think early Beatles), oddball experimental Americana song Broken Arrow (think late Beatles), psychedelic surf-folk jam Kahuna Sunset (think instrumental Beach Boys), and the lovely, floating ballad Expecting To Fly (think... pre-crisis Brian Wilson?). There are also a couple more solo demo outings from Young, I guess included to show his ongoing development as a musician even while as part of a band.

Despite all the promise of a brilliant future, the Buffalo experience was short lived, internal conflicts, clashing egos, and dodgy label shenanigans bringing the band to an abrupt end. Clearly, that wasn’t the end of these musicians’ stories though; otherwise I wouldn’t be reviewing a box set of Neil Young archives.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Neil Young - Archives, Vol. 1: Disc 0 - Early Years (1963-1965)

Reprise Records: 2009

It figures. No sooner do I finally start on a new letter than I get hit with a bloody box-set. So long, forward momentum. Tackling this sucker will easily eat up a week's worth of reviews. True, I could give a quick overview and be done with it, but as with The Electro Compendium from last year, it'd leave an obscene gap of content on this blog if I didn't keep some record of my progress. Fortunately, Neil Young: Archives is nicely divided up into manageable chunks, so at least things will move along in a logical fashion. Obviously, if you don't give a flookin' Canook about Neil Young, check back in around seven days – I should be back to regular(ish) electronic music again.

You’re still with me? Aww, you're awesome, really you are. Gotta know what's up with some more good ol' Shakey, does ya'? Well, if you stick around, you'll find out just about everything there is to know about the first ten years of Mr. Young's musical career. More than you'll likely care to know, if I'm honest – heck, it was more than I cared about, though it is interesting from a fan's perspective. Whether you got the CD, DVD (yo), or Blu-Ray version of Archives, Vol. 1, everything was split into chronological sections. It also includes Live At The Fillmore East and Live At Massey Hall, which I've covered already; plus his oddball movie Journey Through The Past, but I won't cover that since this isn't Musician Movie Critic. Oh, and Live At Canterbury House was apparently a bonus DVD/Blu-Ray, but since it wasn't part of the original Archives, Vol. 1 MP3 download bundle, I won't cover that either. Whoa, a breeze of wind all of a sudden rushed through my apartment, as though dozens of people breathed a sigh of release.

Okay, let’s get this thing started, by starting at the start of Young’s career – back when he was still young-Young! (eh? eh...? No, wait, come back...). Most were first introduced to ol’ Neil when he was part of the Los Angeles band Buffalo Springfield, but before heading out there, he played for an old-timey surf-rock band called The Squires. Since they were still teens, the boys mostly played high-school dances and community halls around Manitoba and Ontario, hardly the sort of exposure one could hope for breaking into the big time. They did manage one official single with a couple instrumentals called Aurora and The Sultan though. It’s, well, surf-rock. Cowabunga?

Everything else on Early Years (1963-1965) is previously unreleased material. This includes leftover Squires material that never saw the light of day, a few blues numbers he recorded with Comrie Smith, and an extended recording of a studio session featuring early takes of Sugar Mountain and Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing. These sound like hastily recorded demos likely intended to spread around Toronto or Motown. Pft, you’ll never make it there with such folksy songs, kid. Go west, my son, go west.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Dub Trees - Nature Never Did Betray The Heart That Loved Her

LSD - Liquid Sound Design: 2000

This is the sort of CD that was destined for an 'impulse buy'. Fifty bones to drop in the music shop, with so many familiar artists floating about; yet rather predictable in what you'll get on a disc. No, I'll hold off on getting another progressive trance DJ mix or deep house label compilation. I want something new and unexpected, but just familiar enough that it won't possibly be a total waste of money. There, that CD with 'Dub Trees' on the cover. I know dub music, and with a hippie-dippy title like Nature Never Did Betray The Heart That Loved Her, I've a good feeling the music will be something like Waveform Records. Hm, Youth's the main producer here. I feel like I should know that name. Oh well, Dragonfly Records usually releases psy-trance, so maybe we'll get some Planet Dog type of psychedelic dub stuff.

Yeah, we got that, and more. For a psy-dub album, Nature Never etc. etc. is remarkably diverse, Youth dipping his dubby toes deep into various forms of the genre. For his dub roots run deep, like a tree, yo' – you could even say *dons dreadlock wig* he's a Dub Tree, yeaaahh, mon! Wait, that wasn’t a pun?

Anyhow, Martin Glover had been floating about various music scenes for a while, most famously playing bass in post-punk band Killing Joke and contributing to early albums from The Orb and System 7. Along the way he got sucked into the world of goa trance, and even found time to set up a label promoting the stuff. He must have gotten right proper inspired by the emerging psy-dub sounds that were carrying on from what Dr. Alex Paterson and he had kicked off with ambient dub, taking his own stab at it with this one-off Dub Trees project. Roping in for music contributions were long-time producing partner Greg Hunter, plus Simon Posford, fresh off his first Shpongle LP. Indian world-dub fusion group Suns Of Arqa also contribute, but no Bill Laswell, because Dub Trees already gots them a bass player, mang.

With so many influences thrown into this dub soup, Nature Never yada yada yada is about as offbeat and eclectic as this music can go without stepping outside its comfort zone. There are straight-up reggae rhythms (Butterfly Trilogy), synthy interludes (Cobalt Waterfall), quirky sampling (Buffalo, La Rosa), dark meditative excursions (Orpheus), opium dens flying through space (Dreamlab), psy-dub grooves (Magnetica), and goof-ball bass drops (Concrete Tourist). All of which, natch, filtered through more dub effects than you can shake a King Tubby at.

If all this sounds like “just another trippy dub album”, you’re right, although Youth’s definitely a better song crafter than most out there, having rubbed shoulders with so many masters of the genre. This album also acts as a sort of bridge between ambient dub of the ‘90s, and psy-dub of the ‘00s, not a bad thing if you’ve endlessly debated the merits of either. Does anyone even do that?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Markus Schulz - Miami '05

Armada Music: 2005

This is it, isn’t it? The peak of this particular sub-genre of progressive trance? I already know how Markus Schulz’ story goes after this one, to say nothing of McProg as a whole. Tiësto’s In Search Of Sunrise 5 caught me off guard with how classy it treated the music – Hell, that Mr. Verwest jumped on the Schulz sound period – but there aren’t any other DJs that rinsed out the ‘classic’ Coldharbour sound who I should be checking out, right? Schulz being the King of his mountain, anyone else just can’t compare, true? Please tell me I shouldn’t also be digging into Anjunabeats circa. 2005 to find out – I feel dirty enough already retroactively enjoying McProg as I do now, and I don’t want to futilely search for more if it’s all downhill from Miami ‘05.

I mean, these two CDs have nearly everything I could hope for with these tentative explorations of the lambasted genre, and very little of the things that came to annoy me. It’s already a given we’re getting plenty of those tasty grumbly basslines and twinkly melodies I’ve developed the softest of spots for. I still can’t explain how or why it happened. Maybe it’s the lack of a constant barrage of slavering trance-crackers on web-forums championing it as the greatest music since Xpander (that tune’s practically the genre’s progenitor, come to think of it). Make no mistake, there still isn’t that much substance to this style of prog-trance, and if I re-listened to Miami ‘05 over and over as I typically did with most trance for review ten years past, almost certainly the empty shell within the shiny façade of a surface would reveal itself. Damn though, is it fun music for an occasional dip.

Miami ‘05 wouldn’t be any good if it was just one sound all the way through, and the bits of variety Schulz throws in (re: promoted singles from Coldharbour) are mostly welcome. As usual, I can bin the vocal cuts, but there are only three offenders on CD1, and even Interstate’s I Found You is given a nice rub from Lemon8. Side-chaining also makes its annoying entry here, Hammer & Bennett’s Baltic Sea being the worst offender (cool percussion though!), but like the vocal cuts, they’re few and far between, and don’t detract from the whole. Also, that Electro Hairspray track’s horribly muddy, practically a parody of the very sound Schulz is promoting on these mixes. Still, props for making it his only contribution to this mix – giving the new cats a chance to shine!

Speaking of, quite a few one-offs like Aronek, Jagermaestro, Yilmaz Altanhan, and Sundawner mix things up with usual suspects like Özgür Can, Mike Foyle, and Jose Amnesia. Should it come as any surprise these relative unknowns have the most interesting tracks here? And breaks! There’s trancey breaks on Miami ‘05! Good trancey breaks! Oh, Schulz, you’re spoiling me here. Can I go back in time and join your Cult? Well, maybe not.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Vangelis - L'Apocalypse Des Animaux

Polydor: 1973/1991

Speaking of gathering music from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, there was one frequently used composition I was disappointed never appeared on the The Music Of Cosmos 2CD set. It wasn’t a one-off like Pink Floyd’s One Of These Days either – it appeared frequently, a droning bit of gentle, background ambience most memorably used during the ‘galaxy showcase’ in The Edge Of Forever. As the series repeatedly used Vangelis’ music, I suspected it was one of the Greek composer’s pieces as well; however, nothing like it appeared on Heaven & Hell or Albedo 0.39, the two albums Cosmos primarily cribbed music from. There were no original music credits available either, so I had no clue whether I was on the right track. Did I have any hope in solving this mystery?

With luck, I recently stumbled upon a website that had listed Cosmos’ original music cue sheet for each episode. A bit of sleuthing later, and I discovered I was indeed correct in the music being of Vangelis origin. What I hadn’t counted on was it originating from Mr. Papathanassiou’s very first album!

The piece, by the way, is called Création Du Monde, which appeared in the soundtrack for a mostly forgotten French nature documentary called L’Apocalypse Des Animaux. Story goes Vangelis, while still a part of psychedelic rock act Aphrodite’s Child, had begun writing incidental music intended for licensing out for shows of such sort. Frederic Rossif, who made the film, snatched the rights to these compositions, and thus formed the officially released soundtrack to L’Apocalypse Des Animaux. Not that the details terribly matter - the brief opening ‘jungle rhythm’ track aside (subtitled Generique), this LP may as well be considered Vangelis’ first official solo album.

What’s most fascinating about this music is just how far back it dates, and the undeniable influences it imparted. Création De Monde is Eno ambient half a decade before Music For Airports: droning ebbs and flows of synths pads, occasional calming plucks of strings or bells, and ten minutes of pure, floating bliss. Minimalism was kicking around, true, but not designed with such a relaxing approach to song craft. Even more ambient is La Mer Recommencée, which adds light cymbal washes to the droning synth work, leading into a crescendo as it plays out.

Or, if you’re more familiar with Vangelis’ later score work, La Petite Fille de la Mer captures the same delicate innocence of Carly’s Song. Likewise, Le Singe Bleu is all gentle keyboards and lonesome trumpet – not quite Bladerunner Blues, but certainly just as stirring. Stephen Halpern must have been playing close attention to those keyboard tones too, sounding quite similar to his Keynote series that kicked off the whole New Age movement.

And all this lovely music was originally wasted on images of animals. My mind boggles. Yeah, I can see Création Du Monde working with the sight of birds in flight, but Sagan had the right idea. This music far deserves the grandeur and scope of the galaxies.

Things I've Talked About

...txt 10 Records 16 Bit Lolita's 1963 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 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 2018 2019 20xx Update 2562 3 Loop Music 302 Acid 36 3FORCE 3six Recordings 4AD 6 x 6 Records 75 Ark 7L & Esoteric 808 State A Perfect Circle A Positive Life A-Wave a.r.t.less A&M Records A&R Records Abandoned Communities Abasi Above and Beyond abstract Ace Trace Ace Tracks Playlists Ace Ventura acid acid house acid jazz acid techno acoustic Acroplane Recordings Adam Freeland Adham Shaikh ADNY Adrian Younge adult contemporary Advanced UFO Phantom Aegri Somnia Aes Dana Afrika Bambaataa Afro-house Afterhours Agoria Aidan Casserly Aira Mitsuki Ajana Records Ajna AK1200 Akshan album Aldrin Alex Smoke Alex Theory Alice In Chains Alien Community Alien Project Alio Die All Saints Alphabet Zoo Alphaxone Altar Records Alter Ego alternative rock Alucidnation Ambelion Ambidextrous ambient ambient dub ambient techno Ambient World Ambientium Ametsub Amon Tobin Amplexus Anabolic Frolic Anatolya Andrea Parker Andrew Heath Androcell Anduin Andy C anecdotes Aniplex Anjunabeats Annibale Records Anodize Another Fine Day Antendex anthem house Anthony Paul Kerby Anthony Rother Anti-Social Network Aoide Aphasia Records Aphex Twin Apócrýphos Apollo Apple Records April Records Aqua Aquarellist Aquascape Aquasky Aquila Arcade Architects Of Existence arena rock Arista Armada Armin van Buuren Arpatle Arts & Crafts ASC Ashtech Asia Asian Dub Foundation Astral Projection Astral Waves Astralwerks AstroPilot Asura Asylum Records ATCO Records Atlantic Atlantis atmospheric jungle Atomic Hooligan Atrium Carceri Attic Attoya Audion AuroraX Autechre Autistici Autumn Of Communion Avantgarde Aveparthe Avicii Axiom Axs Axtone Records Aythar B.G. The Prince Of Rap B°TONG B12 Babygrande Balance Balanced Records Balearic ballad Banco de Gaia Bandulu Battle Axe Records battle-rap Bauri Beastie Boys Beat Buzz Records Beatbox Machinery Beats & Pieces bebop Beck Bedouin Soundclash Bedrock Records Beechwood Music Benny Benassi Bent Benz Street US Berlin-School Beto Narme Beyond bhangra Bicep big beat Big Boi Big L Big Life Bill Hamel Bill Laswell BIlly Idol BineMusic BioMetal Biophon Records Biosphere Bipolar Music BKS Black Hole Recordings black rebel motorcycle club Black Swan Sounds Blanco Y Negro Blasterjaxx Blend Blood Music Blow Up Blue Amazon Blue Öyster Cult blues Bluescreen Bluetech BMG Boards Of Canada Bob Dylan Bob Marley Bobina Bogdan Raczynzki Bone Thugs-N-Harmony Boney M Bong Load Records Bonzai Boogie Down Productions Booka Shade Botchit & Scarper Bows Boxed Boys Noize Boysnoize Records BPitch Control braindance Brandt Brauer Frick Brasil & The Gallowbrothers Band breakbeats breakcore breaks Brian Eno Brian Wilson Brick Records Britpop Brodinski broken beat Brooklyn Music Ltd Bryan Adams BT Bubble Buffalo Springfield Bulk Recordings Burial Burned CDs Bursak Records Bush Busta Rhymes C.I.A. Calibre calypso Canibus Canned Resistor Capitol Records Capsula Captured Digital Carbon Based Lifeforms Carl B Carl Craig Carol C Caroline Records Carpe Sonum Records Castroe Cat Sun CD-Maximum Ceephax Acid Crew Celestial Dragon Records Cell Celtic Cevin Fisher Cheb i Sabbah Cheeky Records chemical breaks Chihei Hatakeyama chill out chill-out chiptune Chris Duckenfield Chris Fortier Chris Korda Chris Sheppard Chris Witoski 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 Club Tools Cocoon Recordings Cold Spring Coldcut Coldplay coldwave Colette collagist Columbia Com.Pact Records comedy Compilation Comrie Smith Connect.Ohm conscious Control Music Convextion Cooking Vinyl Cor Fijneman Corderoy Cosmic Gate Cosmic Replicant Cosmo Cocktail Cosmos Studios Cottonbelly Council Of Nine Counter Records country country rock Covert Operations Recordings Craig Padilla Crazy Horse Cream Creamfields Creedence Clearwater Revival Crockett's Theme Crosby Stills And Nash Crosstown Rebels crunk Cryo Chamber Cryobiosis Cryogenic Weekend Cryostasis Crystal Moon Cube Guys Culture Beat Curb Records Current Curve cut'n'paste Cyan Music Cyber Productions CyberOctave Cyclic Law Cygna Cyril Secq Czarface D-Bridge D-Fuse D-Topia Entertainment Dacru Records Daddy G Daft Punk Dag Rosenqvist Damian Lazarus Damon Albarn Dan The Automator Dance 2 Trance Dance Pool dancehall Daniel Heatcliff Daniel Lentz Daniel Pemberton Daniel Wanrooy Danny Howells Danny Tenaglia Dao Da Noize dark ambient dark psy darkcore darkside darkstep darkwave Darla Records Darren McClure Darren Nye DAT Records Databloem dataObscura David Alvarado David Bickley David Bridie David Guetta David Morley DDR De-tuned Dead Coast Dead Melodies Deadmau5 Death Grips Death Row Records Decimal Dedicated Deejay Goldfinger Deep Dish Deep Forest deep house Deeply Rooted House Deepwater Black Deetron Def Jam Recordings Del Tha Funkee Homosapien Delerium Delsin Deltron 3030 Depeche Mode Der Dritte Raum Derek Carr Detroit Devin Underwood Deysn Masiello 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 Divination 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 Dooflex Dopplereffekt Dossier Dousk downtempo dowtempo Dr. Atmo Dr. Dre Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show Dr. Octagon Dragon Quest dream house dream pop DreamWorks Records Drexciya drill 'n' bass Dronarivm drone Dronny Darko drum 'n' bass DrumNBassArena 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 Eastcost EastWest Eastworld 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 Electronic Music Guide Electrovoya Elektra Elektrolux em:t EMC update EMI Emiliana Torrini Eminem Emmerichk Emperor Norton Empire enCAPSULAte Engine Recordings Enigma Enmarta EP Epic epic trance EQ Recordings Erased Tapes Records Eric Borgo Erik Vee Erol Alkan Escape Esoteric Reactive ethereal Etnica Etnoscope Euphoria euro dance eurotrance Eurythmics Eve Records Everlast Ewan Pearson Exitab experimental Eye Q Records Ezdanitoff F Communications Fabric Fade Records Faithless Falcon Reekon Fallen fanfic Fantastisizer Fantasy Enhancing 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 Fontana footwork Force Intel Fountain Music Four Tet FPU Frank Bretschneider Frankie Bones Frankie Knuckles Frans de Waard Fred Everything freestyle French house Front Line Assembly 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 Gareth Davis Gary Martin Gas Gasoline Alley Records Gee Street Geffen Records Gel-Sol Genesis Geometry Combat Gerald Donald Get Physical Music ghetto Ghostface Killah Ghostly International glam Gliese 581C glitch Global Communication Global Underground Globular goa trance God Body Disconnect Gorillaz gospel Gost goth Grammy Awards Gravediggaz Green Day Grey Area Greytone Gridlock grime Groove Armada Groove Corporation Grooverider grunge Guru Gustaf Hidlebrand Gusto Records GZA H2O Records Haddaway Halgrath happy hardcore hard house hard rock hard techno hard trance hardcore Hardfloor hardstyle Harlequins Enigma Harmless Harmonic 33 Harold Budd Harthouse Harthouse Mannheim Hawtin Hearts Of Space Hed Kandi Hefty Records Helen Marnie Hell Hercules And Love Affair Hernán Cattáneo Hexstatic Hi-Bias Records Hic Sunt Leones Hide And Sequence Hiero Emperium Hieroglyphics High Contrast High Note Records Higher Ground Higher Intelligence Agency Hilyard hip-hop hip-house hipno Home Normal Honest Jon's Records Hooj Choons Hope Records horrorcore Hospital Records Hot Chip Hotflush Recordings house Howie B Huey Lewis & The News Human Blue Hybrid Hybrid Leisureland Hymen Records Hyperdub Hypertrophy hypnotic records I Awake I-Cube i! Records I.F.O.R. I.R.S. Records Iboga Records Ice Cube Ice H2o Records ICE MC IDM Igorrr illbient Imperial Dancefloor Imploded View In Charge In Trance We Trust Incoming Incubus Indica Records indie rock Industrial Infected Mushroom Infinite Guitar influence records Infonet Ink Midget 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 Islands Of Light Italians Do It Better italo disco italo house Item Caligo J-pop Jack Moss Jackpot Jacob Newman Jafu Jake Stephenson Jam and Spoon Jam El Mar James Blake James Horner James Murray James Zabiela Jamie Jones Jamie Myerson Jamie Principle Jamiroquai Javelin Ltd. 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