Thursday, April 30, 2015

µ-Ziq - Royal Astronomy

Virgin: 1999

When µ-Ziq signed with Virgin, part of his deal included the creation of Planet Mu as an offshoot. Mr. Paradinas' label has gone on to some critical fame in the years since, but at the time Virgin was struggling in its promotion of IDM, unable to properly capitalize on the buzz Aphex Twin's videos had generated; or so the story goes. Not sure if it was that awful, what with plenty of magazine ad spots for Lunatic Harness and Royal Astronomy. Still, it's understandable that Virgin and Paradinas would decide parting ways was best for both, frenetic braindance chamber music most definitely not the sort of music easily marketed alongside The Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim. Thus, in 1998, the µ-Ziq brand found a permanent, exclusive home on Planet Mu, where Paradinas' albums have been released ever since.

Wait a second, Royal Astronomy came out in 1999, after Planet Mu went proper independent, yet was still released by Virgin. And, unlike Lunatic Harness, this album didn't get a Planet Mu edition, instead being published by Virgin sub-label Hut Recordings, who also released albums from acts like Smashing Pumpkins, Placebo, The Verve, and Gomez (wait, who?). What gives the dealy-o?

Since I'm not a journalist and unwilling to do much research beyond cursory digging, here’s some speculation instead: Paradinas had an album commitment to Virgin, releasing a set number of LPs within such-and-such time span. He got out of that contract when he gained the independent rights to Planet Mu, but had to still provide Virgin with at least one more album's worth of material as part of the bargain. Hence, Royal Astronomy, an album with Virgin's marketing clout behind it, and music with almost no interest on Paradinas' part. Am I right? Do I get the no-prize? Just this CD? Awww.

I can't outright call Royal Astronomy bad, as µ-Ziq has enough talent that even slapdash moments have something interesting going on. There's even a kernel of an album concept lurking in here, where Paradinas indulges is classical leaning compositions as though they were intended for Romantic Era performances (Scaling, Gruber’s Mandolin, Scrape) but sometimes given a thumping, funky twist for the modern era (The Hwicci Song, The Fear, Slice, World Of Leather). It'd be a fun exploration if he'd gone the album's length with it, but unfortunately is hardly touched upon after a promising first few tunes.

The rest either goes the acid IDM fun-funk route (Autumn Acid, Carpet Muncher), quirky pleasantness (56, Goodbye, Goodbye), and standard d’n’b rinse-outs (The Motorbike Track, Bust Your Arm). I’m not getting any rhyme or reason why these tracks are on this album or in the order they’re presented in – here’s some music µ-Ziq had lying around, toss it on the CD, and here’s your final Virgin LP. Done and dusted.

Royal Astronomy’s just too erratic a listen to recommend it as a whole. Sometimes that works in IDM’s favour but not on this outing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Benny Benassi - Rock'N'Rave (Original TC Review)

Ultra Records: 2008

(2015 Update:
I recall hating this, but upon re-listening to Benassi's sophomore effort, it wasn't as bad as I remember. Surely it was within the review itself that my bile had been expunged, snarky quips galore shot upon one of dirty electro's founding fathers. Nay, t'was not here either, generally positive things said even while remaining properly critical. Hell, I even gave some praise to
I Am Not Drunk, and that song's awful. Maybe taking on a temporary douche-bro mindset truly does help in seeing things from the other side, an appreciation for the trashy dumb-fun aspect of club culture. That, or I suspected things would only get worse with the advent of disposable EDM in the following decade.

Speaking of, no surprise Benassi's hitched another wagon onto the festival anthem house scene. His recent singles could be any number of Guetta/Hardwell clones though, not even retaining the sleazy charm that marked his early work. Makes some of the tripe on this album come off far more original. Still, if you've got a hankering for the old Ed Banger 'maximal' sound, stick with Boyz Noise.)

IN BRIEF: Marginal satisfaction.

Oh dear, we aren’t actually going to do this, are we? Oh yes indeed we (or at least I) are (am). After so many months of giving the collective nu-electro house scene the thumbs down, we’re going ahead and reviewing the new album from the man that propelled the sound into the stratosphere of popular taste with his hit single Satisfaction. No good can come of this, right? Tsk, you wound us with your petty assumptions.

Thing is, most of our criticisms of the genre tend to fall upon the stagnant Swedish side of things, where farting basslines dominate; but we here at TranceCritic have remained rather neutral where Benassi and his sleazy side-chaining clones are concerned. Chalk it up to a kind of love-hate relationship with Benny: he has undoubtedly produced some fun house music, but due to his catering to the tastes of mainstream lowest common denominator, not much of it holds up when placed under scrutiny. Still, he knows his role, and we know he knows his role, so we often let his brand of nu-electro go; let him enjoy his success while the sound is hot.

Popular trends are fleeting, however, and a little over two years ago, when last we talked of Benassi [at TranceCritic], we predicted the sleazy side-chaining gimmick would be wearing out its welcome. Sure enough, Benassi's nu-electro has been usurped in clubbing circles for a thrashier trashier kind of sound, feeding off the arena rock vibes acts like Justice brought to the forefront of dance music. Never being one to innovate but always one to capitalize upon a hot trend, Benny’s hopped on this latest bandwagon, and offers us his second album titled Rock‘N’Rave.

And he (plus producing partner Alle Benassi, remaining in the background while his brother Benny’s grabs the spotlight) does whip up some suitably rowdy numbers that’ll work perfectly fine in your typical weekend club; however, when stacked against much of the dance-rock material released this past year, it pales in comparison. Far too much of it sounds like Benassi approximating what he figures to be the Ed Banger aesthetic, hitting you with blunt out-of-tune riffs permanently cranked into the red; sometimes it works (Rock‘N’Rave, U Move U Rock Me) but most of the time it’s a noisy annoyance - which has often been the main criticism of this genre right from the beginning anyway.

Benassi hasn’t completely abandoned his bread and butter, though, and whenever he brings the harlots and side-chaining out, the tracks surprisingly fare better. I Am Not Drunk, for example, is a fun bit of boozy-woozy hedonistic-dance indulgence. And then there’s My Body and Who’s Your Daddy, which prove Benassi a capable producer when he plays to a chick’s sense of tease. Unfortunately, they also have their problems: despite My Body’s fun rowdy nature, the side-chaining in its main melody is atrocious, some of the worst I’ve heard in a while; and compared to the original version of Who’s Your Daddy, this Pump-kin mix lacks spunk.

Still, those bratty girls are far more entertaining than most of the guest vocalists Benassi has brought in. Aside from Come Fly Away, which features euro-dancey pop lyrics courtesy of Channing complementing old-school rave riffs (sweet! ...until you realize the track doesn’t really go anywhere), it seems we’re in an emoting boy-band audition session. Good god, it’s bad enough we’ve been having to hear it in bad euro-trance, but now in dance-rock too? Enough already.

Ah, hell. I’m getting too critical over this music, aren’t I. That’s not the right frame of mind at all for Benassi’s type of music. Hold on a moment while I slip into something a little more suitable...

*Downs half-a-dozen jagerbombs; shot-guns a Rock Star; rails a line of blow off the ass of a trampy twenty-something gal wearing tacky sunglasses; spikes hair into frosted tips*

So, bro! This Benassi shit, man! Fuckin’ killer shit, eh bro? Oh fuck ya’, man! Listen to those fuckin’ FAT beats and... oh fuck! Dude!! Check out those two sluts fucking frenchin’, bro! That’s fucking AWESOME! Yeah, you go, bitches!! Wooooo!!!!! Oh, hey, bro! Benassi’s fucking the SHIT, man! Look how he gets those skanks wet and horny. Damn, I’m gonna get me some pussy tonight, I shit you not, bro! Benny Benassi, woooo!!! This shit’s off the HOOK!

Hey, bro, got any blow?

*sobers up*

Ugh, what happened? Where was I? Ah, right. Guest vocalists. If you like your male vocalists sounding overly emotional and earnest, you’ll probably enjoy the guys on Rock ‘N’ Rave. And I have to admit Shocking Silence isn’t too bad of an offering, even if it’s merely style-biting Marco V’s False Light.

The second disc is mostly remixes and some of Benassi’s ‘vs’ projects assembled together. None of the remixes are worth your time (Eclectic Strings is a dub of My Body, and sounding woefully inept without Mia's skanky vocals). The rest sounds like Benny’s attempt to replicate the success of Bring The Pain by capitalizing on some other current trends (classic house revivalism in the case of Black Box, and punky indie rock in the case of Iggy Pop); Bring The Pain actually is some fun, even if I can’t help but be reminded of Jason Nevins and Run DMC, but the other two are wholly unnecessary and uninspired reworks, making me just want to listen to the originals instead. Pretty much a toss-off, CD number two is.

So, perhaps this was to be expected after all. There’s no doubt Rock ‘N’ Rave has moments that’ll entertain, even if it’s mostly in a drunken-dumb kind of way. As an album, though, it isn’t the kind of thing you’ll be playing much from front-to-end. While you may whole-heartedly accept Benassi’s change of direction, his execution of it all sounds uncertain, as though he’s only doing this in order to keep up with contemporary clubbing consciousness. Whether his fanbase picks up on this remains to be seen but, in the long run, finding any kind of Satisfaction on here will be difficult. Oh yes, I went with the bad pun; deal with it, bro!

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

ACE TRACKS: August 2013

Huh. Spotify’s gone a little screwy after downloading one of their updates. Despite registering ~14,400 songs, my Local Files no longer show. Meh, serves me right for figuring a newer version of a Desktop app would somehow be better. There’ve been a few minor features that disappeared lately, though nothing as inconveniencing as this. I suppose it doesn’t make too much difference since most y’all couldn’t hear the missing tracks anyway. For a short Playlist such as AUGUST 2013’s, however, even having those songs in a track list would help some. Guess I’ll add them in whenever Spotify sorts their shit out.

Full track list here.

Various - High Karate
DJ John Kelley - High Desert Soundsystem
DJ John Kelley - High Desert Soundsystem 2 Various - Dirty Vegas: Homelands 2002 Preview
Various - Helsinki Mix Sessions: Jori Hulkkonen
William Orbit - Hello Waveforms
Various - Heroes! Rewind!!

Percentage Of Hip-Hop: 0%
Percentage Of Rock: 0%
Most “WTF?” Track: Daft Punk - Alive (how’d the end come so soon!?)

Vacation time already resulted in a lean month for reviews, but with half the albums covered not even available on Spotify makes for one very, very short Playlist. Remarkably, almost everything that made it is house music, and a rather specific sort at that. It’s like Frankie Knuckles, Daft Punk, and Hercules & Love Affair are kindred spirits in alphabetical coincidences. Even the tougher tech-trance from L.S.G., Trancesetters, and Jan Driver don’t sound out of place.

What obviously will though is that Hits Unlimited CD from 2 Unlimited. It seems Spotify finally has a version of the group’s greatest hits package available, so I’ve lumped it all at the end of the Playlist like the fanboy I am. There were also current remixes on it too, from the likes of Steve Aoki, Big Dawg, and Joachim Garraud. Naturally, I jettisoned them to the bin. Why make you suffer more than necessary?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Various - Renaissance: The Masters Series Part 15 - James Zabiela

Renaissance: 2010

Maybe I should just go back to the beginning, those early seminal mixes that elevated James Zabiela into the progressive elite. Yet would I be let down by those too? There’s so much hype for Utilities, Sound In Motion and ALiVE, their legacy as essential contributions to progressive house/breaks/tech, I fear they can’t help but not live up to their praise. Were they just good for the time, or had ol’ Zabs’ earned enough good will with live shows and Sasha nods that they forgave whatever faults those CDs might have. They certainly can’t have that same sense of missed opportunities as his contributions to Renaissance’s Master Series have.

Let me repeat his CD1 mix from Part 12 remains a great collection of tunes, arranged with wonderful narrative flow; however, the whole package is undone by the hopelessly dated, drab techno of CD2. Part 15 is another double-disc set that would have benefitted from reducing it to one. In this case though, we’re dealing with two half-good mixes rather than one ace and one bunk.

Make no mistake, I was looking forward to hearing this one based on the tracklist alone. So many artists I enjoy, plus others I deeply respect despite not indulging their material as often. Like who, asks you, before knowing the imminent namedrop shall commence. There’s Gui Boratto, Robert Babicz, Guy J, Hardfloor, Spooky, Josh Wink, Kaito, Jori Hulkkanen, Siriusmo, Ellen Allien, Boys Noize, ASC, plus a chap by the name of Peter Benisch I’ve gushed all too often about. Part of what intrigued me about Part 15 was how Zabiela would arrange all these artists into a cohesive DJ set, and the answer is he barely does at all, mostly opting for the mixtape treatment of tracks instead. Okay, cool, I’m sure Zabiela’s got some great selections to showcase throughout the course of these runtimes. Ehh…

CD1, subtitled A Life Less Ordinary, suffers most from this, never gaining any traction until well over the half-way mark with a comfortable groove. Before that though, we run through dubby downbeat (Nosaj Thing’s Fog), clicky chill (Zabiela’s Burnt Bridges), shoegazey electro (R3volve’s Bootpacker Alpha), microfunk (ASC’s Porcelain), and acid-ragga breaks (Ruxpin’s A Sunrise). All cool music, but little connection between any of it beyond tunes Zabiela’s fond of, and the distracting, injected dialog snippets don’t help matter either (shame, because such recordings were also a plus in Part 12’s favor). Still, a strong finish for this disc, even if it’s thanks to Benisch’s Skymning pulling it forward (no bias!).

CD2, subtitled Afterlife, almost has a good start with some melodic Detroit techno (Vince Watson’s Long Way From Home, but is followed upon deep tech-house that has all the substance of a rice cracker. At least it isn’t plodding, and once Zabiela gets out of the fussy bloopiness of it all, he settles into an enjoyable proggy outing with a little acid funk thrown in. There, that wasn’t so hard. Why you no do that from the start?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Amon Tobin - Out From Out Where

Ninja Tune: 2002

Out From Out Where marks a transitional period in Amon Tobin's career. I know this because that's what many ten year old reviews tell me, and I've no reason to disbelieve them. True, I should know this more intuitively than second-hand Wiki links, but my Tobin experience has thus far only been his earliest efforts for Ninja Tune. That leaves a near half-decade gap between Bricolage and this one, of which ol' Amon could have taken all sorts of weird and crazy musical tangents. No no, don't tell me what Supermodified and Permutation sound like, Dr. Spotify, I savour the mystery that still exists, music that I've yet to discover and properly take in with attentive ears. We need not know all the things all at once, right?

Thus, we jump a few years over the rest of Mr. Tobin’s ‘90s output, away from the jazz-fusion signifiers that won him plenty of plaudits. A little branching out never hurt anyone as talented as ol’ Amon, even if it was sometimes in weird ways (a field recordings album, really?). Out From Out Where seems less concerned with artistic endeavours though, going for something more accessible, with big nasty beats that the kids lap up in the streets.

Seriously, everyone going on about the awesomeness of glitch hop these days would cream their shorts after hearing the opening salvo of this album. There’s still more than enough micro-editing and beat stitching that’ll have your Squarepusher triggers flashing, but Tobin doesn’t go so braindancey in this outing, tracks coming off like turntable cut-ups as only capably performed by an arachnid DJ. Back From Space has funky bass licks, stuttering hip-hop rhythms, flanged-out string sections, and gnarly bass action. Verbal is a complete funk-hop stomp rock-out, including acoustic guitar strums, cannon-blast bass, cavernous percussion, and stitched in MCing. Chronic Tronic bounces along with drums and woodblocks echoing off huge halls, nasty low-end wobbles, vicious beat craft, and wonderfully contrasted with ethereal orchestral passages. Yes, that’s a thing, got’dang it, Amon Tobin’s made it so. He also makes my inner b-boy bust out some sick moves – if only my aging body could pull them off. *sigh*

The rest of Out From Out Where doesn’t reach the same thrill as the opening three provides, but does offer its share of mint material too. Cosmo Retro Intro Outro may as well be Tobin’s official “hey advertisers, here’s a track!” big beat offering, while Triple Science has him getting his drill ‘n’ bass on. Meanwhile, Hey Blondie has a little krautrock vibe going for it, and El Wraith shows the ill-fated illbient genre still had some life in it for the new millennium. The rest is the sort of trip-hop many associate with Ninja Tune with a little added Amon flair, though I understand why some might not be as impressed with such music since its well tread ground since the ‘90s. Whatever, it’s still great headphone tuneage. Pardon me as I go swagger down my street now.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Faithless - No Roots

Arista: 2004

Faithless had to know they needed a shakeup. The various members weren't feeling the synergy quite so strong as the years wore on, other pet projects taking their time away from being one of the biggest bands in the UK (huh, that sounds familiar). They had enough built-in good will with their fans that stretching their musical ability wouldn't alienate many anyway, so why not try something different while the opportunity was there? It's not like it'd abruptly end the group. Haha... eh, well...

Still, No Roots was popular enough, earning Faithless their first number one album on the UK charts. It’s mind-boggling that they never accomplished it with any previous LP. You’d think at least Sunday 8PM or even Outrospective would have climbed that high since those had much bigger singles in their favour (the group was still too ‘underground’ in their Reverence years). Generally speaking, Outrospective did have better success abroad, but most of the world had moved on from Faithless by 2004, whereas their native land still had much love for them (for a couple more years anyway).

No Roots may not have garnered the same mass appeal as their previous albums, but I wager this is Faithless’ best album-album after Sunday 8PM. Though the group dared to blend genres few others would in their previous LPs, their old formula was getting all too predictable. Here’s the trip-hop conscious track with Maxi Jazz. Here’s the Big Obvious Club Anthem. Here’s the world-weary folksy singer song. Here’s the Dido guest spot. Here’s the other Big Obvious Club Anthem. Here’s the other trip-hop conscious track with Maxi Jazz. Here’s the quirky track. Here’s the blissy instrumental. Hey, it was a very effective way to arrange an album, but doing the same thing three times in a row seems self-defeating for a group known for their dynamic musical abilities.

No Roots opts for a different, erm, route. You still have the same markers, but they’re blended into the flow of the album far more effectively. Heck, the entire record flows wonderfully between tracks, making the whole thing come off like one long song. Example: after the rousing build of I Want More (the first of the Big Club Anthem on here, though not as Obvious as prior hits), the drop into chipper, jazz-hoppy Love Lives On My Street is hardly forced, sounding as natural a follow-up as anything could. Another significant change to No Roots is the inclusion of LSK, providing an urban R&B croon in contrast to the khaki-clad style prior guest singers had (Jamie Catto, Boy George).

Elsewhere on the album, you get deep house (Sweep, Miss U Less, See U More), classy clubbier stuff (What About Love), acid ambient (Pastoral), and a little rock action too (Swingers) among the dependable trip-hop tracks. Plenty of reprisals throughout too, adding to the sense No Roots was designed with a full play-through in mind. Listen to a Faithless album in full? *gasp* No skipping to the hits for you, pal.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cosmic Replicant - Mission Infinity

Altar Records: 2014

No, really, Altar Records is more than psy-chill compilations and AstroPilot albums. I know it doesn’t seem so if you’ve only learned about them through this lonesome blog in the backwaters of interwebland, but that’s because… Okay, for a good portion of their first couple years, Altar Records pretty much was psy-chill compilations and AstroPilot albums. It didn’t take long in branching out though, growing their roster of acts and expanding their offerings of ambient, dub, and, um, New Agey meditation music probably (some covers are suspect). They haven't strayed far from the scene that nurtured them, but considering their ridiculous rate of output (nearly triple digits in six years!), Altar's had plenty of opportunities taking a few chances outside their comfort zone.

Cosmic Replicant's one such act, another in what seems like an endless supply of Russian and Ukrainian producers involved in the psy scene in some way. Do they have breeding vats pumping out these guys in Eastern Europe or something? Mr. Pavel Shirshin's released a few albums on Altar already with this guise, Mission Infinity his third in a two year time span (there’s also a fourth self-released LP as well – geez, what a work rate). I haven't checked out the other two yet, and didn't know anything about Cosmic Replicant before buying this in my Altar splurge, if only to go through the blind purchase thrill even with a label I'm quite comfy with. If Mission Infinity's anything to go by though, I gotta' dig into those early efforts.

These tunes are some of the best, recent examples of the classic, bleepy ambient techno I’m always banging on about (obligatory Higher Intelligence Agency namedrop). Obviously these lean a little in psy’s direction, but primarily on the rhythmic front. Tracks like Overnight Journey, Perception Of Doors and Overnight Journey have that downtempo dub thing going for them, whereas latter tracks like Quantum Leap, Yesterday Tomorrow, and the titular cut wade into prog-psy’s waters. Other tracks though, like opener Flexible Minds and Waves Bubbles are totally old-school Bobby Bird.

It’s Cosmic Replicant’s choice of sounds that draws the strongest comparison though, synths, pads, acid, and samples harkening back to the days where ambient techno was more fascinated with space and the future. It’s not that this is a total retro homage either, the production quality as current as anything Altar’s put out – C.R.’s merely used plenty of vintage sounds as compliments to contemporary styles. And unlike the pure experimental tone of that Antendex album Photons (my last direct HIA comparison), Mr. Shirshin is intent upon writing proper pieces of music here, the sort that can take you on nice little journeys within your head. Mission Infinity isn’t quite so brilliant at as the masters of the craft, but it’s been a while since these particular pleasure centers have been tickled so wonderfully (obligatory Distant System namedrop). Do check Mission Infinity out if you’ve a little early ‘90s space-bleep ambient techno love kicking about.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Various - 6th Element (The Missing Elements)

Altar Records: 2011

Okay, now you're just milking your concept, Altar Records. Even going for a fifth was dubious, but the nebulous idea of a classical element that consists of ether or souls or whatever ('love'? Arrgh!) has enough traction within pop culture to allow it. A sixth though? I seriously can't even. What's this supposed to represent, the substance within hyperspace? The singularity centre of a black hole? The whiskers that makes up Evil Spock's beard? The last digit of pi?

I jest of course. A year after Altar wrapped up their Elements series, they released this download-only bonus of unreleased material that didn't make the cut for various reasons, hence Missing Elements as a subtitle (and why it's getting reviewed with the 'M's – t’was sorted that way). Normally such releases don't interest me, but since it came included with the purchase of the Elements set, here’s my six pennies' worth of opinion on 6th Element.

First off, holy cow, but do these ever sound 'unreleased'. Okay, under-produced is a better term, but that's only in comparison to the strong mixdown Altar typically provides on all its material. These feel like a layer’s cut off, or even missing an ele- *slaps self*.

What I mean is, the production quality isn’t that far removed from the sort of tunes you’d find on small sub-labels of Israeli psy trance in the mid-‘00s. Come to think of it, DJ Zen started out on one such label, Sunline Records (Quebec based), which was an offshoot of Kagdila Records (California based). I can’t say I’ve heard of anything from either print, so I’ve no idea whether their mixdown standards were up to snuff with the Twisteds and Ultimaes of the time. What I can tell you is when Zen went proper independent with Altar, he must have gotten his hands on Aes Dana’s notebook of mixdown techniques. No sense on spending that extra studio time on ‘unreleased’ material though.

So the production isn’t as exquisite as the rest of the Elements series, but there’s still some cool stuff on here. Zen gives AstroPilot’s Inside The Harmony an eighteen minute ethno-ambient remix, which may sound daunting, but the original off the Solar Walk album’s even longer! At the other end of 6th Element is Asura with a track that sounds like Vangelis at his poppier moments, suitably titled, um, Vangelis. Everything in between runs the usual gamut of psy dub, chill, and prog, from regular contributors like Zymosis, Tentura, and Chronos, to first-time outside helpers like Elea, Suduaya, and Dreaming Cooper (Lord Discogs lists this as his only credit!). And man, are there ever some corkers in this collection, tracks building as some of the best prog-psy goes. The fact these remain strong pieces of music even without extra engineering polish goes to show Zen’s surrounded himself with some incredibly talented people.

That said, I wouldn’t bother with 6th Element unless you’re already keen to Altar Records output. More a pleasant bonus to their main series, this one.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Moss Garden - In The Silence Of The Subconscious

Carpe Sonum Records: 2014

If you’re getting a sense of Namlook déjà-vu with that cover art, it’s deliberate on the Carpe Sonum’s part. Following Mr. Peter Kuhlmann’s death, many of his labels ended too, including several offshoots and cross-sea distributor partnerships. One of these, EAR/Rational, set up a short-term label called Carpe Sonum Records with the sole intent of releasing that tribute mega-boxset all you ambient lovers undoubtedly heard about and snagged up. Hell, are any of those left now? *checks* Holy cow, only three remaining? Bought! *whew* Almost missed out on that. Where was I now? Right, Carpe Sonum.

What began as a one-time effort has now evolved into a full-fledged label with the intent of carrying on Namlook’s legacy in the realm of ambient and chill. This includes the classic Fax +49-69/450464 art style, and even taking on a few latter-era FAX artists to their roster (Thomas P. Heckmann, Lorenzo Montanà, Mick Chillage). Carpe Sonum’s rounded up newer acts too, including this here Moss Garden.

Unfortunately, I’ve less background info available for this duo (and by “I”, I mean Lord Discogs and Prince One half is Lee Norris, who's released a pile of music across multiple labels and genres (mostly IDM stuff) as Metamatics over the last couple decades. The other half is Dimitar Dodovski, who's released far less material than Norris, and has stuck to the downtempo side of dub and techno. With plenty of crafty rhythmic skill behind them, naturally the two would find kinship in creating pure ambient music.

While I’ve gone on and on about the Namlook within this review, Moss Garden’s sophomore effort, In The Silence Of The Subconscious, has more in common with Biosphere’s brand of synthy drone. And no, it’s not just because the cover features a lone individual trekking across a snowy field, though that certainly wouldn’t be out of place on a Geir Jenssen release. Nay, the very nature of Moss Garden’s music has a chilly tone to it, delicate pads and timbre feeling like wide-open winter canvases. Even some track titles - Strange Terrain, Shadowland - conjure the desolate reaches of frozen tundra, though I could also be straining to find thematic links. Hey, maybe that’s why they’ve included a track called Daily Catachresis! Meanwhile, soft field recordings of winds, crackling footsteps, and static embers that dub techno types adore, add some warmth to an atmosphere that’s rather brisk.

So this is all very lovely, inviting ambient that never noodles too long or pointless dawdles about. Um... if I’m honest, I kinda’ wish these tracks did stretch themselves out a little longer. There’s only seven on Silent Subconscious, none of which break the ten minute mark – heck, most only average about five minutes, practically ‘skit’ length where ambient of this sort is concerned. Moss Garden’s style, though hardly unique, is still skilful enough they should indulge their synths a little longer. Ah well, maybe on the next LP they’ll feel emboldened enough to go for those truly epic Namlook lengths.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Various - Fire

Altar Records: 2009

I'm sorry, but I just can't take anything with a simple title of Fire seriously anymore. It's The Prodigy's fault, you see. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about, and if you don't, that's only because you haven't heard that old track off Experience yet. Or you did, but were too addled on goofballs to remember it. Believe me though, should you hear The Prodigy's Fire, you'll never see that word the same way again, the corny call forever imprinted upon that part of the brain that plays music from within. What I wouldn't give to have that bit of cellular membrane surgically scooped out.

The reason for this totally unrelated intro is I've run out of background information to discuss regarding Altar Records' Elements series. Wait, this is your first click into my coverage of it? Well, then check out my review for Air. Or Earth. Or Ether. Or Water, when I eventually get to it in my alphabetical order and have to recap what this series was all about since ya’ll will have forgotten about it by then. Or you can take the plunge for these CDs too, gaining the same intimate knowledge of Altar Records’ early years as I have thus far gleaned in my crash course. But Fire, now my fourth review in this series in a week’s time, has nothing more to add in the discussion. Except the music!

Obviously there’d be differences between each volume – little point in making a theme-based compilation if you don’t take advantage of it. And while these various CDs maintain a loose connection to the element they’re tied to, they’ve all kept within the chill side of psy and dub, only occasionally upping the tempo into the realms of prog psy. Not so with Fire, the near entirety of its runtime devoted to the four-to-the-floor groove. Only (proper) opener Crossroads Limiter from Asura (widescreen acid chill) and psy dub closers from Ra and Uth (Tears Of Fire and Around The Sun In Seven Days, respectively – whoa, what sort of planet travels that fast?) break the mould, which makes good sense as your bookmark tracks.

It’s not pure prog psy from the get-go either, Tentura’s Resonance easing the listener in with a dubbier outing. It’s off to the morning vibes right after with Aquascape’s Phoenix Dance, with tracks by the now-regular Altar contributors all pitching in (AstroPilot, Zymosis, DJ Zen as Astral Waves, and Chronos – ah, hm, it may be a while before I get to him after all). The Zymosis track, Summer Twilight, is an interesting contribution too, going for the psy-breaks business that we don’t hear nearly enough of. C’mon, psy parties, your scene’s already suffering from staleness, and injecting other genres into your standards is a perfect way of spicing things up (no dubstep tho’).

Fire’s a good compilation to get your feet wet with Altar Records if you’re curious about their uptempo style. The best of Elements though? Nah, guy, I just reviewed that one, remember?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Harmonic 33 - Extraordinary People

Alphabet Zoo: 2002

Who exactly was responsible for this style of music getting so popular anyway? Groove Armada certainly had huge commercial success, and Röyksopp got a pile of praise too. Wasn’t AIR on this even sooner though? What even was the trigger that had the collective European chill-out market suddenly declare, “You know what needs coming back? Golden oldies easy listening pop jangles, now with funk and hip-hop!” It’s gotta’ be Gilles Peterson’s doing. He was all up in resurrecting the past, and getting Radio 1 airplay broadcasting his tastes to a broader audience incited producers at trying their hand at it. Not that I mind of course, but for a short while at the turn of the century, it seemed everyone was getting in on that retro-sunny ‘60s pop-soul, or whatever the stuff was called back in the day. The past is always better, yo’.

Let’s assume Mark Pritchard’s foray into that style was more coincidence than bandwagon jump, that he simply felt a similar itch when a whole pile of other folks did. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he’d been sitting on ideas for Harmonic 33 for a while, even while doing all that seminal work in the ‘90s with Tom Middleton (Global Communication, Jedi Knights, Secret Ingredients). His output and collaborations (Dave Brinkworth in this case) since the start of the 21st Century points more to a love all things urban and modern, and though the tunes off Extraordinary People takes melodic cues from ‘60s, this is very much an album where contemporary beats dominate.

And hot damn, are some of these rhythms ever dope. They aren’t any more complex than what you’d expect out of typical Ninja Tune, but each unleashes the wormiest little shuffle that it’s impossible not getting your strut on. Plus, that bass, mang! I don’t know if it was sampled or synthesized, but many of these tracks contain one of the grooviest, cavernous cellos I’ve ever heard in jazz-influenced hip-hop, and is a total treat with strong playback options (I dare even the most jaded sod not bob their shoulders in Where Have They Gone). Adding to the funky business is Danny Breaks with occasional turntable scratches, though he doesn’t go as abstract as others do. A point of contention though: these tracks need an MC. A good chunk of them come off like conscious rap instrumentals, and while it doesn’t detract from the whole, it does take some warming up to Pritchard’s style, like it’s missing a critical component.

Back to the pluses in this album’s favor, nothing is taken too seriously, a light-hearted bounce running throughout. Even when a track goes for a melancholic vibe (The Rain Song, Underwater Lady, Kaleidoscope) or psychedelic weird (Extraordinary People, Exotica), they’re nicely contrasted with spritely pianos, light xylophones, or rugged basslines (seriously, that cello!). This is ‘60s easy-listening soul as remembered with the rosiest of tinted glasses, so if you need bitters in your margaritas, I wouldn’t bother buying this CD.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Various - Ether

Altar Records: 2010

The fifth element is ether? Was this officially sanctioned by the Ancient Old-Timey Classical Hold-Outs Consortium? I mean, it's definitely a better option than 'love' or 'heart', but what's ether supposed to represent? Spirit and soul? Immaterial ghosts and energy beings? Neutrinos and positrons? Whatever the Hell cosmic foam is supposed to be? Maybe it’s that pseudo fourth state matter can exist as, plasma. However you logically justify ether being an element, in the case of Altar Records’ Elements series, it’s just an excuse to worm in a fifth CD as a cap to the enterprise. And thank God’s ether blood they did, because this just might be the best of them all.

Without spoiling the other two editions much (Fire and Water, obviously), this compilation series does maintain a solid streak throughout. There's exotic instrumentation, trancey synths and pads, psychedelic sound effects that owe plenty to Shpongle's influence, moments of proggy groove (or nearly a full run-through, in one CD’s case), and more than enough ethnic dub that even Megadog should feel weak in the knees. Nothing ever sounds cheap or forced, seldom ever pointlessly overproduced, and flits between enough variations of the style to keep each CD engaging from front to back. However, this is all still quite standard stuff as psy-chill goes, which isn't that surprising as Altar head DJ Zen and his gathered roster grew within the scene itself. It does make a difference coming in from different music backgrounds though, as the Mighty Ultimae attests to.

Ether does right in shaking free of those tropes, though obviously not completely. Altar simply wasn’t established enough to go plucking artists from dub techno labels and the like, nor do I get the sense DJ Zen’s too interested in doing so. Still, what we do get here though gets me all atwitter.

First, the psy dub to open. Yeah, nothing terribly new there even for a 2010 release, but Mr. Peculiar’s Ancient Tribes has some gnarly world beat vibes going for it. Then AstroPilot show up with Answers, and it’s an utterly lush, ethereal piece of Balearic bliss. Shortly following that is Distant System with an exclusive track, Astral Map Error. *squeeee* You already know I’ll praise this kick-ass slice of spacey prog psy, but I dare say this standalone is better than nearly every cut off Spiral Empire.

The sci-fi nature of Distant System isn’t a one-shot on Ether either (read it out loud, you know you want to!). Tentura’s Free Your Mind and E-Mantra’s Emptiness skew in this direction as well, adding an extra dimension to the Elements series after being so generally grounded (though Air did have its floating moments too). In case space doesn’t project your consciousness high enough though, Ether closes out with Asura’s epic Everlasting. That track’s appeared in a couple places now, including last year’s Radio Universe, but it was on this CD first, and a perfect conclusion to a fine series of compilations. Upper astral waits.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

ACE TRACKS: September 2013

Oh dear. Hockey Playoffs are about to start, and unlike these past two years, this one actually looks to be more fun for yours truly (so many teams I'm routing for!). It shouldn't impact my writing output that much, but if Vancouver, Winnipeg, Washington, Ottawa or Montreal make lengthy runs, I suspect many a drunken revelry shall be had upon victorious nights. But I'm sure you folks from across the seas and regions devoid of hockey rinks care not for this, so here's an ACE TRACKS playlist for the month of September 2013. *whew* Only one more year's worth of this backtracking to go...

Full track list here.

Faithless - If Lovin’ You Is Wrong
Carbon Based Lifeforms - Hydroponic Garden
Miguel Migs - Get Salted, Volume 1

Percentage Of Hip-Hop: 27%
Percentage Of Rock: 2%
Most “WTF?” Track: Nothing in particular, but ICE MC’s definitely way out of place in this Playlist.

So much hip-hop in this month, yet only one instance of Wu-Tang Clan. Guess they felt naming an album with some variant of ‘ill’ was a played out cliché in rap slang – or allowed Nas ownage of the term forever after. Also, hope you’re a fan of ‘90s Juno Reactor. If not, I back-loaded most of the tunes anyway, so they wouldn’t dominate too much of the early sections of the runtime?

Overall, this one turned out pretty well, which I’d never thought possible with early BT, angry Ice Cube, spacey Petar Dundov, and bouncy Banco de Gaia all making appearances. Remarkable how well some tunes can flow together with just a couple suitable linkers between them. Or maybe my taste in music skews in specific ways no matter what genre or scene I pluck my tracks from.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Various - Earth

Altar Records: 2010

Now this is a different approach. Most artwork depicting the Earth elemental tends to favor things dealing with rock, soil, and whatever images we associate with terra firma, the solid ground beneath our feet (or the fiery furnace further below, if you’ve read the Death Gate Cycle) . Thus, many of the colors that come with the dirt we dig into are tied to the element too - brown, burgundy, and such are often described as ‘earth tones’. Yet such colors are not exclusive to Earth, the planet, similar shades often found on other celestial bodies in various states. On the other hand, a color does exist that has thus far been found exclusively of Earth, a pigment that’s a by-product of photosynthesis within plant life: green. How cool is it that, instead of rehashing the same ol’ symbolism associated with the classical Earth elemental, they incorporated something scientifically unique to planet Earth instead. It, like, makes you think cosmic big, and all that, yo’.

Less unique is the style of psy-chill found on Earth itself, with influences from world beat and dub finding their way in. Makes sense as those are mostly ‘earthly’ forms of music, especially whenever things go more groovy and tribal – no sense rocking the ‘element theme compilation’ foundations too much. Earth was also the fourth in the Altar’s Elements series, released a mere year after Air had kicked things off, and some strain with the concept was already showing, label boss and compiler DJ Zen recycling many names despite everyone still offering up exclusive tracks. That’s fine if it’s point of these roster showcases, but the way it’s gone about with Earth is odd.

For instance, Zymosis shows up thrice (note: mistake from my Air review, AstroPilot (Dmitriy Redko) is not a member of Zymosis, but rather Dmitriy Lihachov; got my Dmitriys mixed up) with the following credits: CJ Catalizer vs Zymosis, Tentura vs Zymosis, and Zymosis vs Tentura. What on earth (Earth!) is the point of crediting tracks like the latter two? Trying to give as equal billing to the collaborators as possible? Why not just create a ‘supergroup’ alias then? It’s not like the tunes are that dissimilar anyway.

Other names on this compilation include Asura (Charles Farwell had basically set up a second home with Altar by this point), Chronos (don’t worry, I’ll get to him soon), Lab’s Cloud (who’s released two albums with Altar now), plus veteran acts like Vibrasphere, Ra, and Chi-A.D. rounding things out (literally, as two of them bookmark the CD). A solid enough list of acts, all said, but very little on Earth leaps out beyond what fans of the genre are familiar with. Only Ra’s March Of The Lunar Priests, a spacey goa thing with a rhythm that does sound like a march, leaped above the highly competent productions I’m already spoiled by from this label. That’s always the problem with these genre compilation splurges though, isn’t it? What’s stunning in isolation turns average in bunches.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Aphex Twin - Drukqs

Warp Records: 2001

Why, I remember a time when we took new Aphex Twin music for granted, by g'ar. You bet we received Drukqs with barely passing attention. “Yeah, yeah, it's fine,” we shrugged, “but when will you release Selected Ambient Works 3, Mr. James? Or redefine IDM again like with so many other prior albums and EPs?” How were we to know our lackadaisical interest in a double-LP opus would all but force the Aphex'd One into permanent production privacy, pulling a near KLF disappearance from the world of music. Yeah, there were all those acid singles as AFX, but not as Aphex Twin, the pseudonym everyone cared about (re: primarily knew). All these meticulously crafted drill’n’bass electro dancing in your brain, the attempts at ‘real’ music with pianos, harpsichords, and other assorted chamber instruments, all wasted on a selfish audience, wondering why Radiohead was going on about this guy so much.

Or, y’know, ol’ Richie had a pile of unused demo music and discarded braindance B-sides lying about and shoved Drukqs out for some quick dosh. Either scenario wouldn’t surprise me.

For all the music on these two CDs, this album honestly does sound like two different ones mashed together. Half of it is made up of the aforementioned drillin’ breaks, the sort that still sounds indebted to Squarepusher but with enough of Aphex Twin’s quirky fills, changes in tone, melancholic ambient, and irreverent sense of humor making it distinctly his own. If this just sounds like retreads of Richard D. James Album, I counter these tunes off Drukqs are far better polished, even the most extreme glitched-out moments having a logical sense of musical flow to them. Plus, the production is incredibly slick, sounds never mashed into senseless noise even as any number of digital bits and pieces are flying about. Of course, by 2001 much of the IDM world had caught up to such tricks, so that folks wouldn’t be as impressed by Aphex’s efforts isn’t surprising. That doesn’t make them any less mint though.

The other half comprises all the classically minded compositions, most running a couple minutes of noodling about on keyboards of various types. The only unique thing about these is how Mr. James recorded a fair amount of the mechanical process involved in these instruments: the shuffling of pedals, the light plonks of ivory within wooden casings, and even his occasional faulty human flubs. For all I know though, this is a technique many pianists employ – I’m simply not well-versed in that field of music for any comparison. All I can tell is Aphex does craft some lovely little ditties, and a few utterly ART-wanky percussion pieces too (that said, Gwarek 2’s fun with headphones!).

Many came around to Drukqs when it seemed no new Aphex Twin material would ever materialize, so the album has gotten it’s just due now. It’s still better served for folks with some prior knowledge of his music before going in though. Not a beginner’s LP, this.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Model 500 - Digital Solutions

Metroplex: 2015

Considering how very important Juan Atkins is among other Very Important People in the world of techno, it's remarkable how small his discography is compared to his peers. I suppose he gets a pass, what with practically inventing the whole genre while providing one of the first labels supporting his Detroit-bred style of electronic beatcraft. What's even more remarkable about all this, though, is Digital Solutions is the first, proper full-length Model 500 LP to be released on his Metroplex print. Every prior album came out on Belgium R & S Records, including the Classics collection that gathered up a bundle of Metroplex singles. Guess even ol' Juan was pissed off by the lame R & S Logo cover on that recent re-issue of Deep Space (seriously, so stupid).

Whatever the case, Digital Solutions marks the third such effort from Mr. Atkins, well over a decade since the last Model 500 album dropped. The genre he’d built had gone through several changes throughout the ‘00s, most significant the exodus of many faces and shakers to the clubs and warehouses of Berlin even as kids inspired by his early works came into their own. Though there wasn’t any need for a ‘statement album’ from one of the honoured elders, there was some buzz whether he’d use the Model 500 moniker to explore these trends, or perhaps find an entirely new avenue worthy of exploration. So many possibilities, mang!

Instead, Juan said nuts to all that and went way back to his roots, offering up an album of retro electro and techno. Huh, that’s… I’m resistant to say ‘disappointing’, but certainly not what you’d expect in a 2015 LP when previous Model 500 long-players (all two of them!) were evolutions on his futurism music. I can’t even compare it to an old rock band releasing an album of blues standards, since those musicians often have a huge swath of back-catalogue allowing for such nostalgic dalliances. Did Mr. Atkins just not have much to say regarding techno’s recent incarnations, or does he feel the sounds he created thirty years past (!!) are more future-leaning than all the minimal-plonk that dominated for too long? Perhaps that’s the statement us chroniclers of electronic music are deluding ourselves into believing!

Speaking of Digital Solutions, this is a fun little album of throwback electro and techno. In fact, the two tracks that do take stabs at relatively current trends (UK grime in Encounter, minimal in the titular cut) are the only wack moments found among the nine pieces. Even the titles seem culled direct from the ‘80s, simple things like Hi NRG, Electric Night, The Groove and Control. Though I’d have loved to hear a Model 500 album go deeper into the Deep Space style, hearing more in the Classics vein is mighty fine for my ears - even stronger modern production can’t dilute that retro-future charm. I can’t think of anything more suitable for this moniker in its return home to Metroplex.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Various - Air

Altar Records: 2009

So I splurged on a pile of Altar Records CDs. The reason I done did this was they too subscribe to the ‘limited run of physical medium’ philosophy. Fortunately for me though, the Quebec label has thus far flown far under the radar of even the most ardent of downtempo and psy-chill sorts, and much of their back catalogue can still be had direct from their website. As I've been enjoying the cut of their jib from regular artists like AstroPilot and Chronos, you bet I snagged up what I could while it’s still there – I won’t get left behind on this one, nosiree! This includes an entire compilation series spotlighting various in-house talent and assists from a few outside friends, with an elemental theme tying the whole thing together. Hm, not the most original concept, that.

Unlike the previous elemental chill-out series I covered a couple years back (!), this one doesn't have a unifying series banner, simply dropping each compilation into its alphabetical titled sorting with no backup, standing alone for itself. How noble. Oh, and there’s a fifth element to this series too – can you guess what it is? (no, not 'love', that'd be stupid). Anyhow, as I deal with my music in alphabetical order, fate has decreed the first in this series, Air, kicks off my now-sporadic coverage of Altar Records’ Elements series. Incidentally, this was also the first CD released by Altar. And I mean ever!

The opening half of Air prominently features producers the label would cultivate for its roster. In fact, AstroPilot kicks the whole thing off, though is teamed up with one Grigoriy Sobinov as Zymosis. I wouldn’t go so far as to say its typical psy-dub chill-out, but if you’ve digested copious amounts of Shpongle and such, you’re in familiar grounds here (or is it clouds in this case?). Following that is Voices Of The Universe from Aquascape & Skydan, two names I know little about beyond what Lord Discogs tells me, and am stunned to hear a track that’s not too dissimilar to a throwback Jean Michel Jarre piece. Wait, isn’t Altar psy? Sure, and label head DJ Zen drops in for third track Speak Your Mind with flutist Jace Gravel, and holy cow, where’d this cut come from? It has a rather standard world beat build with all the psychedelic trimmings, but when that beat finally drops into a thudding, proggy-dub thing, hot damn! That’s how you make an opening statement for your label, my friends.

Air carries on with nice variety of different-flavored psy on the downbeat, tracks offered by Tentura, Shakri, and Chronos (more on him later). Then Ultimae’s Big Three – Asura, Aes Dana, Solar Fields – drop by to finish the compilation off, and with exclusives no less! Okay, if I’m honest, it’s not that big a deal, their tracks not catching each at the peak of their powers. Still, getting that bump from the top dog of the psy-chill yard had to help Altar’s early prospects.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Seraphim Rytm - Aeterna

Silent Season: 2014/2015

How have I neglected Silent Season for so long? Like, I knew it existed, had seen its name crop up, mostly in relation to a couple ASC albums. Perhaps the ‘dub techno’ tag had me initially wary, an all too trendy buzzword the past decade, but I should have had more faith in a local label being class. Also, as they’ve primarily catered to the digital market, I just assumed there’d be no hard copies available with any of their releases. Turns out I was wrong, they do release CDs, though in a limited capacity. No worries though, even short runs last a few years in a label’s store house. Just pop over to the website and- oh, right. Dub techno. This is the domain of the Basic Channel collector. You either get in right away, or not at all. *sigh* All that back catalog, as out of reach as a first run Fax +49-69/450464 vinyl. Moral: don’t sleep on your locals.

That all sorted, let’s talk about Silent Season’s latest offering, Aeterna from Seraphim Rytm. Erm, can’t help you out much on the producer info part, as Mr. S.R. is rather reclusive from the interwebs. All I can glean from the sporadic PR blurbs is he’s from Belgium, and a far-flung region at that. Heh, figures he’d end up releasing an album on an equally far-flung label like Silent Season. Oh, and he also produces as Damaskin, which Lord Discogs confirms. Only the most quality sleuthing here at Electronic Music Critic!

Though I mentioned Silent Season’s breaded butter sits in the dub techno fridge, the music on Aeterna barely categorizes as that. There’s certainly dub production going on, but Seraphim Rytm layers his loops to such a degree that he turns his tracks into lengthy, hypnotic drones. His rhythms are mostly soft ambient techno, the sort that’ll have forlorn old-school Aphex Twin fans reminiscing of simpler times. Synth pads pulse and throb like meditative breathing, and melodic touches ebb in and out during each track’s duration (running an average of ten minutes apiece). Aside from the titular opener’s beatless, running-water theme, there isn’t much stylistic variation between any of these cuts, but they’re well crafted pieces of music, never so monotonous that you’ll lose interest in their meandering journey (yeah, the ‘water’ motif was deliberate on Mr. Damaskin’s part). Should you spring for the digital version of Aeterna (pretty much necessary at this point), you get two additional tracks for your dollar, Kozara and Sana. Compared to the relative calm tones of the album proper, these come off more experimental in their chosen sounds, though still follow the same droning looptastic nature as the other tracks. Definite B-side material, then.

And Hell, I’ll say it: Aeterna is a trance record. Not euro-trance, or techno-trance, or whatever qualifier you need describing that large genre, but in its purest sense, where the listener is drawn within through subtlety and repetition. Okay, maybe neo-trance too, if we’re counting that as a thing.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sabled Sun - 2147

Cryo Chamber: 2015

In some ways, the haunting final transmission of Sabled Sun’s 2145 could have served as a perfect conclusion to the whole project. It’d be bleak as all Hell, a lone survivor from another time, left to scrape out what meager existence he has left in an inhospitable environment. Yet, struggle on he will, as that is what marks the indomitable human soul. If 2145 was a novel, what more fitting ending: the protagonist overcoming the remorseless antagonist that is the ruined world surrounding him? It matters not whether he survives for long; he's determined to leave some trace of mankind's fighting volition, overcoming our most horrible mistakes. Whether he succeeds or not is irrelevant, this is a spiritual triumph in the face of impossible circumstances. (holy cow, has Sabled Sun ever inspired my inner literature wanker!)

Carry on Simon Heath did though, with follow-up 2146 serving as a direct exploration of the ruined world compared to 2145's broad thematic setting. I initially figured it was set from the perspective of space travelers discovering the remnants of this world, but with an actual point-of-view protagonist being established in the album prior, it could be his continuing story as well. Either or would work in 2146's favor, though with 2147, I get the sense we're firmly back in the eroded shoes of our man from the past.

Whatever the case may be, as the cheery cover art illustrates, things haven’t improved much on the planet in the two years since first awakening (and three years since the last Sabled Sun album came out). The opening track is titled Survival, and through windswept field recordings, pelting acid rain, and staggered steps through charred landscapes, a mournful dirge emanates from the embers of civilization. Much of the music on 2147 follows in Survival’s wake, long droning compositions with dark pads layered to the point of distortion, as though even tonal harmony can no longer exist in this desolate clime’. There’s also more sense of journey in this album, and not just because there’s a track titled Journey either. Other track titles include The Outer Zone, The Space Center, Hope, Home, and Hibernation. Wait… Hope? As in, there’s some actual light within the abyss that is this future Hellscape?

Perhaps. The titles and music suggests there may be a few holdouts, and that our nameless protagonist from 2145 has come across them. Or he decided this world was not worth living in, and thus re-entered cryo slumber, a possibility of a better tomorrow should he be revived again. The final track Dreams Without A Future is certainly the most pleasant thing heard on all three Sabled Sun albums, a gentle bit of piano ambience with only the slightest bit of distortion added. After the ordeal we’ve been through, a respite is most welcome, a sweet release from the turmoil of this broken world. Of course, that’s all conjecture. Guess we’ll have to wait for the next chapter in Mr. Heath’s story to find out.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sabled Sun - 2145

Cryo Chamber: 2012

It took him nearly three years to do it, but Simon Heath finally released the next chapter in his Sabled Sun story, 2147. But wait, there's still the first album in this series, 2145! I should go back to that one first and get the whole picture, eh? Like, would you read Foundation by skipping Prelude? The Lord Of The Rings by skipping Fellowship? The Thrawn Trilogy by skipping Heir To The Empire? Nah, guy, you do things proper-like and read/hear things from the beginning. So to it then.

As 2145 is the opener to the Sabled Sun setting, it’s only appropriate there’s an Intro. Here, a nameless protagonist wakes up from a cryo’ sleep, providing a brief, haggard narration detailing the health conditions that led him taking such drastic measures. Finally having the reality of his environment settle in, he remarks with abject incomprehension, “You know, I imagined waking up not in any kind of utopia – not so naive – but at least something. I mean, I figured things were bad before... but this? ...what happened?” What indeed.

Heath is never explicit in the details, but track titles do provide some hints.This Is Where The World Ends, Singularity, Silo, Date Expired, Shattered, A New Sun and Acid Rain are such examples, with a few vague ones like The Ancient, Retina, and The Hideout thrown in for good measure. Or these could be references to the world we now find ourselves in, the historical events that led to the downfall of civilization forever lost. The music never explicitly details anything either – we are dealing with a dark ambient project, so our references are mood and conjecture, leaving things to interpretation. It's like an album full of those transitional bits from The FSOL's Dead Cities.

As for the music itself, it’s suitably sombre and bleak. Most tracks run relatively brief for the genre, seldom ever droning on for more than necessary (if you’re after that, check out the Signals spin-off). Some tracks focus more on melody, others on sound effects and immersion, all retaining a gritty, future-shock tone, though not so heavy on the sci-fi ‘scapes as the follow-up 2146 went. I found a few of the latter tracks growing redundant with this album’s theme, though the elegy Acid Rain near the end definitely puts a proper, reflective capper on what was lost in this future world.

The final track though, Transmission/Outro ...damn. A menacing, escalating drone with spits of static reminds you just how desolate the world now is, no chance of recovery, no light at the end. Then the nameless protagonist from the intro returns, sending a desperate plea to anyone who might hear him, even into space. “Humanity’s last testament, a lonely voice in the cosmos.” He wonders if intelligences beyond might discover some trace of what we accomplished, or be disgusted that we threw it all away. Then he proclaims that he’s still there, even as his voice is consumed by suffocating static. Defiant to the last.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Burial - Rival Dealer

Hyperdub: 2013

I mean, if you have as dedicated and willing a listening audience as Burial’s, why not take the noble road with a Message Album? It’s tricky though, getting them across such that they’re understandable, but without coming off cloying and obvious as fuck. Also, when even the greatest songwriters look goofy in benefit concerts, what hope does a persistently reclusive sort like Mr. Bevan have, especially with a bevy of Burial backlashers waiting in the bleachers? And did they ever pounce when Rival Dealer came out, decrying it the point where Burial had finally fallen off (until this latest single Temple Sleeper anyway), straying too far from his future garage roots into sentimental pap in delivering his one very important thought. Others countered it was bold moving on from dubstep’s resolutely isolationist urban vibe in favor of something uplifting and socially embracing. Debates raged over intent of message versus calculated courting of controversy for the purpose of marketing, posts in comment threads reaching word counts longer than what I self-impose upon myself for these reviews. Oh shit, the review! I still have to talk about the music!

Three tracks make up Rival Dealer, though the way Burial changes course so frequently, it feels like twice as many shorter tunes mashed together forming a whole. The titular opener alone runs the gamut of darkcore jungle, ravey bosh, and rain-soaked cinematic ambience, all fed through Burial’s distinct crackly urban-soul production. Less about songcraft than sound collage, there’s much to digest, a sonic assault provoking a response – whee, art! Hiders, the short cut of the three (other two breach the ten minute mark each) goes in a synth-pop route, including swelling strings, uplifting pianos, and a lovely croon; then, over a minute of field recordings static and dark drone. Talk about contrasts.

Final cut Come Down To Us lays the sentiments on thick as syrup, though the broken beats Burial crafts are nice and thick too, so I can’t complain. As for his pull on your emotions, yeah, this is as subtle as a meat hook in your heart, but damn if he doesn’t pull it off. Burial’s ace remains his appeal to your base emotions, particularly tugs at nostalgia (hello eleven millionth Boards Of Canada comparison) - that he wrenches feeling out of issues of depression, isolation and hope doesn’t surprise me, and I’m more stunned he pulls it off without crossing that aforementioned line of corn. I can see how others wouldn’t agree, and deride Burial for even going there, but as far as I’m concerned, this is as tastefully done as one can hope, given the context of the subject matter.

As for that particular topic, I’m hardly the person to start preaching, but for what it’s worth, I believe it’s absolute shit the way LGBTQ folk have been generally treated. They deserve better, and am glad progress is made in their benefit, slow as it may be. As the sample on Rival Dealer consistently assures throughout, “you’re not alone”.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Various - Rising High Trance Injection

Instinct Records: 1994

One of the buried treasures of early '90s classic trance, this. Not that Teenage Sykonee realized it when he picked it up by random chance. All he saw was an affordable double-CD with a bunch of weird, cool names (Influx! Syzygy! Tranquilizer! New London School Of Electronics! Perry & Rhodan?), and the word ‘trance’ on the cover. Perfect! Oh wait, except for one track, this sounds nothing like hard German trance. Fail. That second disc's got some neat ambient though. Win!

More to the facts, Rising High Trance Injection is a gathering of ancient trance-leaning tunes from the seminal UK label Rising High, offered up by seminal US label Instinct. Also in for the ride are tracks from seminal German label Fax +49-69/450464, whom Rising High had a distribution deal with. Geez, is that ever a lot of label cross promotion. There's also a lot of acid on hand, Rising High more of a techno print than trance, but daring enough in their records that occasional spacey, trippy sounds would be released along with the hardcore rave thump. If you’re curious about what trance was doing in the UK before even Platipus existed, Rising High Trance Injection is as perfect a summation as you’ll find. Detailing all the cool music on this release will require a serious namedrop paragraph though, so let’s get to it.

CD1 features such important names as Casper Pound (he founded the label so of course), Resistance D., The Irresistible Force, Pete Namlook, Dr. Atmo, and Ed Handley of Black Dog Productions. They are almost all under pseudonyms, some making music you’d never expect of them. For instance, Namlook and Atmo teamed up as Escape, and their track Escape To Neptune is an absolute blinder of hard trance stomp. Due to some legal hiccups, Resistance D’s credited as RD1 for their classic bliss cut Eclipse. Casper Pound hides in the trippy self-titled Tranquilzer, while breaks and ambient dabbler James Bernard (Expansion Unit!) offers up two spacey acid tracks as Influx (plus a dark space ambient outro as Cybertrax at the end of CD2). Oh yeah, Perry & Rhodan’s beloved The Beat Just Goes Straight On & On opens disc one, but I’ve always felt that tune too gimmicky. Give me the deep acid pulse of OBX’s Eternal Prayer or psychedelic build of Balil’s Parasight instead!

That disc two though, hot damn are there some hidden gems lurking about. Here there be lo-o-ong tracks, only six in total but great examples of the ethnic leaning side of chill-out house and ambient dub. Most are familiar with the Namlook and Morris pairing Dreamfish, and we get the aptly dreamy eighteen-minute long School Of Fish on this CD. Namlook’s also here with Christian Thier as Sequential for the proper-trancey Everything Is Under Control. My favourite discovery of these though is Syzygy’s Discovery, coming off what a blend of early Orb and Banco de Gaia might sound like. On acid. Seriously, dude, the acid’s all over this compilation.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Aphex Twin - Richard D. James Album (Original TC Review)

Warp Records: 1996

(2015 Update:
Oh God, there's such a glaring hole in this review, a critical piece of information I left out. Or forgot. Or didn't bother researching for some lazy reason.
Richard D. James Album is officially the first album Richard D. James produced using soft-synths as his primary music hardware, which should be totally obvious by the tonal shift in these tracks. The tickity-tack sounds, cut-up rhythms, micro-sliced sampling, and braindance glitch is common for compositions by way of computer trickery, of which this album his filled with. His prior work, still on analog gear, is more straight-forward in their arrangements, though filled with their own sonic oddities because it's Aphex. Even if that distinction is obvious though, it's an important piece of RDJA's make-up, an essential piece of music journalism I neglected.

Speaking of, man does this review ever read like a stock 'music journalism' piece. I guess that's sorta' good, in that in TranceCritic's late run we were finally coming off polished and professional. Can't say I like reading it now though, much of it feeling functional while sandpapering personality off. Probably didn't like it much then either, at least on a subconscious level. Two year hiatus was nigh.)

IN BRIEF: Aphex-Pusher? Or Square-Twin?

After so many years of being an eccentric pioneer, the perpetually creepy-grinning Richard D. James suddenly was not. Rather, he started following the lead of another eccentric pioneer, Tom Jenkinson. Legend goes James was so impressed by then-unknown Jenkinson’s live show that he quickly signed him to his Rephlex label and released the first Squarepusher album. Then, James himself went and started making tracks with similar aesthetics, where frenetic jazz-fusion rhythms were thrown into a mixing bowl of real-world noises and samples for use in sound banks.

For the Aphex Twin moniker, this was quite new. Granted, there were dabblings here and there (most famously Didgeridoo), but James had carved out his name with gritty drill’n’bass beats, strange yet lovely ambient textures, and, most famously, unique sounds that only he seemed able to create –which is no surprise since the Cornwall native's hobby was gleefully dissecting and experimenting with equipment like some kind of evil vivisectionist. Why would a guy who made a career of sounding like no one else suddenly make music that potentially did (and would when others followed his and Squarepusher's lead)?

Well, aside from the aforementioned Jenkinson influence, fact of the matter was electronic music in general was in transition in the mid-90s, and James was no exception. As a part of the old guard of rave musicians and partiers, he, like so many others, found himself at a crossroad once the original rave scene finally crumbled into separate niches: either find a way to become highly successful in the music industry, or retreat the other way to satisfy the muse. If this album is anything to go by, his initial gut reaction was to retreat – let the other guys (Orbital, Prodigy, et al) have their mainstream. Ironically, the Aphex moniker too would see mainstream success, thanks in huge part to a series of Chris Cunningham videos, but that came later.

Back to the album at hand, it isn’t nearly as over-indulgent as you might expect from the likes of James. It is, however, somewhat jarring on first listen, if for no reason than opening track 4 has some of the tinniest, blunt percs offered from any Aphex Twin tune. Sure, the melody is charming enough, but where are those trademark big crunchy beats, eh? Not here, my friends, and nowhere on this album either. The early-90s Aphex Twin has moved on.

Fingerbib aside, the first half of Richard D. James is probably going to sound like a bunch of glitchy, abrasive, noisy nonsense for those uninitiated to IDM’s more screwy, intense drum programmers. Granted, we’ve had over a decade to get accustomed to such screwbars and nutballs (Venetians Snares, Bogdan Racyzinski, to just name-drop a couple we’ve already covered [at TranceCritic]), but way back in ye’ old 1996, this was some radical sounding stuff. Poor folks were coming into this album looking for more ambient bliss like Blue Calx or drill’n’bass delights like Come As You Mean To Go On, and instead get bizarre metallic clanging in Peek 8245yadayada or contortions of modem dial-up squawks in Carn Marth. You could still hear some of those old Aphex tropes littered about - the melodies James came up with, no matter how distorted or buried they got, still sounded great - but you had to give this album repeated listens to actually get it. Aphex Twin had always been a bit challenging in that regard, but he at least could be counted on cuts that you could easily digest in one sitting. Not so much here though.

Moving on to the second half in short time, James leaves behind most of the harsh sounds in favor of cute’n’cuddly silliness. Result: something far more accessible for those untrained IDM ears out there, and a good load of giddy adulation at the cleverness of it all from the rest. For instance, the brilliantly titled To Cure A Weakling Child splices together pieces of children singing along with infantile melodies (and, of course, intense clippity-cloppity skitter-beats), creating something that’s ridiculously twee, yet very disconcerting whenever James goes into a ‘drum solo’. Yellow Calx aside (which has more in common with older Aphex material due to the synthy backing melodies), Richard D. James wraps up on such silly charming sentiments, even going so far as to include a slide whistle in the final track. It does work wonderfully in a track like Girl/Boy Song, bringing nutty grins to your face in spite of the frenetic drum work, but is simply wacked in Logan Rock Witch, which seems to be James messing around with a bunch of left over samples.

Whatever the case, Richard D. James Album is definitely one of those Must Have releases for connoisseurs of IDM. Along with Squarepusher, it set a precedent for the future direction of this wildly eclectic genre, as several others began following suite and diving off the deep end with such experimental albums (unfortunately to ever-increasing patience-trying results).

For the rest, though, I can sense a little trepidation, especially considering the short running time (finishing out at just under thirty-three minutes). Frankly - and I know this point has been hotly contested over the years - this isn’t the best starting point for Aphex Twin material. Actually, I’m not even sure which album would be, but Richard D. James Album definitely is not it. Due to the very short running times of most of these tracks, the album comes across more like a collection of jingles than songs; great jingles, mind, but jingles nonetheless.

Unless you’re already well versed in IDM sample-skitter-step, I’d hold off on this album until you’ve already taken in one or two Aphex Twin releases. You will eventually enjoy Richard D. James - if not for the eccentric attributes, then for discovering the warmth underneath the eccentric attributes - but at least this way you’ll soften that initial “WTF?” blow to your ears.

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

Friday, April 3, 2015

Leftfield - Rhythm And Stealth

Columbia: 1999

We’re not many, us Leftfield fans who prefer Rhythm And Stealth over Leftism. Mind, most enjoy both albums to some degree, but when pushed for a proclaimed love between the duo’s sole two LPs, Leftism gets the like-thumbs first. And why not? It’s got the classic tunes many are familiar with - Release the Pressure, Song Of Life, Open Up - plus a bevy of classy cuts running from downtempo dub, tribal ‘riddims, and progressive house. These are all easy sounds for a casual consumer of electronic music to vibe on, which was kinda’ the point when Leftfield put that album together anyway. They had new markets to penetrate.

With Rhythm And Stealth though, Barnes and Daley basically said nuts to all that and started treading where their contemporaries feared to venture. They go deeper into the dub, getting their gear good and gritty with Roots Manuva on opener Dusted, then on the cusp of UK super-stardom. Compared to the floating bliss of Release The Pressure, this is one confrontational kick-off by comparison, Leftfield letting their loyal fanbase know they’re in for a rougher ride on this LP. And in case you fooled yourself into thinking it was just a one-off, the pummeling beats and rough rhythms of Phat Planet, Double Flash, Dub Guessett, and 6/8 War reinforces the notion Leftfield aren’t playing nice for their sophomore effort. That’s half the album devoted to unrelenting submission of your psyche, radio-friendly jams be damned. And if you’re obligated in making a radio-friendly jam, I’ve no problem with it being Afrika Shox, a nu-skool electro-funk outing that rescued Afrika Bambaataa from Italian euro-dance Hell (much love for Feel The Vibe tho’!).

Still, they do mix things up with tunes more in line with the reggae dub that inspired much of their output. Chant Of A Poor Man brings back Cheshire Cat for some dancehall business, Swords is basically Leftfield’s stab at trip-hop (getting featured on all the hip rave movies of the time, ‘natch), and a pair of crackly ambient dub outings with El Cid and Rino’s Prayer mark the mid and end points of the album. Come to think of it, each half of Rhythm And Stealth is remarkably similar: opening single with prominent rapper, instrumental banger, downtempo cut, another instrumental banger, and ambient outro. Wow, I never realized that until now! I feel so stupid.

Album programming aside, the fact Rhythm And Stealth caught many off guard is one of the key reasons why I prefer it over Leftism. Barnes and Daley knew they couldn’t repeat their debut, the genres there they’d helped pioneer already coming off dated by decade’s end. Instead, they gambled on pounding dub rhythms and productions fused with other hot genres of the time, once again carving their own sound in the process. It’s an album where the listener must take in on its terms, crossover fans be damned. My kind of LP then, though understandable why Rhythm And Stealth left others cold.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Frank Bretschneider - Rhythm

Raster-Noton: 2007

Frank Bretschneider's the sort of producer I should know more about, given his long history in the realm of experimental glitch. And with that descriptor, you're likely thinking he's part of Mille Plateaux's legacy, one of their key acts at turn of the century. In fact, Frank goes further back than that, having a partnership in similar-styled label Raster-Noton where he released music as Komet before joining Mille as well. His chosen sound wasn't the sort I was actively seeking out way back when, but my so-called maturity of age has provided a measure of interest and respect of the whole 'clicks 'n cuts' scene. Thus it's only natural that my first forays into Mr. Bretschneider's discography should come when I first took my early dips within the Mille Plateaux brotherhood, which happened to be this particular album titled Rhythm. Well, not quite.

Nay, I got this from a trawling of Juno Records in search of new material to review for TranceCritic. It must have been one of the year's lean months, when hyped releases are scarce and I'd take chances on names unfamiliar to my eyes. Such was the case with ol' Frank here, and as Rhythm was filed under Juno's techno section, I thought I might end up with some kick-ass 4am bangin' shit. Oh, 2007 Sykonee, you silly naive fool, did you forget what year you were in?

That Rhythm ended up being a study in minimal beats shouldn't have surprised me, had I done a little prior back checking into Mr. Bretschneider's discography. These blind dives though, what thrills they often reveal, my uncanny sixth sense in judging albums by their covers seldom leading me astray. This LP's called Rhythm, and by God and his DJ, there's no way you can mess that up. No way at all. Except when one does.

Or rather, the Komet man's approach to this album is a strict exercise in form over function, which does fit his creative outlook, so success on those terms I guess. Dear Lord though, is Rhythm tedious: clicks, fuzz, and pops utilized in crafting beats, some low bass, and nothing else. Hell, I can't even call these 'beats', as that implies something that can latch onto your reptile brain and get you moving funky. I can hear a groove existed at some point in these tracks’ development – a hip-hop shuffle here or a breakbeat bounce there – but Bretschneider’s stripped everything down to the aforementioned clicks and such. The result is nine sterile, soulless tracks bereft of the very thing the album’s title implies should be there.

Rhythms can serve as pure head music. Just look at the spazzy braindance scene – ain’t no way folks are dancing to Squarepusher at his most insane. And I’ve heard minimalist, clicky stuff that wasn’t so dull either, though often spiced up with supplemental prefrontal cortex food (tone, hiss, pad!). Not on this album though. Bretschneider deserves another chance, but Rhythm soured me to exploring his material further anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

ACE TRACKS: March 2015

Hey, it’s April 1st, which means I have to do a prank or some shit like that. Okay, let’s see…. Um.. ah, I got it. I promise to review ALL the Armin van Buuren albums! Hahaha! Oh, that’s rich. What, too obvious? Okay, how about this one. I’ll not review all the AvB albums! Ah, hahaaha, hoho hee! That’s not a prank either? Well, what do you want, a close-up sneak peak to Ishkur’s Guide To Electronic Music 3.0? How about a fresh playlist of ACE TRACKS from the past month instead?

Full track list here.

The Beatles - Revolver
Bandulu - Redemption
Various - In Trance We Trust 006: DJ Cor Fijneman

Percentage Of Hip-Hop: 11%
Percentage Of Rock: 12% (note: not all the included rock bands perform actual rock here)
Most “WTF?” Track: I honestly can’t think of one with this bundle. Maybe some of the ‘cracker trance towards the end. Like, how could I ever enjoy such corn! If we’re going that route though, any Bryan Adams?

Quiz: what do Bandulu and The Beatles have in common? They’re both British! Oh, and neither are officially on Spotify, though you can find plenty of cover bands doing Beatles classics. No such luck with Bandulu, sadly.

This one came together remarkably well, which was nice considering the last few playlists were messier than I’d have liked. Even the dalliances into rock don’t sound forced (yes, even Bryan Adams). Also, as with ACE TRACKS: December 2013, I’ve lumped all the In Trance We Trust material at the end, so if you need your eurotrance fix, you’ve a jolly good lot of it at the end. Also, it seemed appropriate kicking that segment off with Faithless’ Insomnia, since they were partially responsible for clubby anthems of that sort gaining popularity.

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 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 Crockett's Theme Crosby Stills And Nash Crosstown Rebels crunk Cryo Chamber Cryobiosis Cryogenic Weekend 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. Jay Haze Jay Tripwire Jaydee jazz jazz dance jazzdance jazzstep Jean-Michel Jarre Jefferson Airplane Jerry Goldsmith Jesper Dahlbäck Jimmy Van M Jiri.Ceiver Jive Jive Electro Jliat Jlin Joel Mull Joey Beltram John '00' Fleming John Acquaviva John Beltran John Digweed John Graham John Kelly John O'Callaghan John Oswald John Shima Johnny Cash Johnny Jewel Jonny L Jori Hulkkonen Joris Voorn Jørn Stenzel Josh Christie Josh Wink Journeys By DJ™ LLC Joyful Noise Recordings Juan Atkins juke Jump Cut jump up Jumpin' & Pumpin' jungle Junior Boy's Own Junkie XL Juno Reactor Jurassic 5 Kaico Kay Wilder KDJ Ken Ishii Kenji Kawai Kenny Glasgow Keoki Keosz Kerri Chandler Kevin Braheny Kevin Yost Kevorkian Records Khooman Khruangbin Ki/oon Kid Koala Kiko Kinetic Records King Cannibal King Midas Sound King Tubby Kitaro Klang Elektronik Klaus Schulze Klik Records KMFDM Koch Records Koichi Sugiyama Kolhoosi 13 Komakino Kompakt Kon Kan Kool Keith Kozo Kraftwelt Kraftwerk Krafty Kuts krautrock Kriistal Ann Krill.Minima Kris O'Neil Kriztal KRS-One Kruder and Dorfmeister Krusseldorf Kubinski KuckKuck Kulor Kurupt Kwook L.B. 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