Saturday, December 29, 2018

U2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind

Island Records: 2000

The only post-Millennium U2 album everyone still remembers fondly of. Oh, I'm sure some still rate How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb and even No Line On The Horizon (not so much Songs Of Innocence though, heh), but this one, this reminded folks that, yes, they actually do like U2. So successful was the Irish band in convincing everyone of this fact, even I got myself the album, and I wasn't even that big a U2 mark when it came out. Sure, I enjoyed their '80s music, but I only ever needed a greatest hits package of said work to sate my needs.

It was a can't-miss project though. After so many years of genre dalliances and wayward muses, getting back to basics was inevitable, the band undoubtedly aware of just how far off the rock path they'd gone. Maybe they couldn't recapture the unforgettable political fire that marked much of their '80s highlights, but they could at least bring in some familiar producers with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. Take a little of what you know, a little of what you learned, mix in all that remains of you (what you can't leave behind), and present it all in a humble, simple little package, none of that technicolor opulence the Pop tour indulged in.

And hoo, did we buy in, desperate to hear the U2 we remembered of yesteryear. Lead single Beautiful Day done did that, offering up the soaring strings, soaring Bono chorus, soaring guitars, and even a little soft 'techno drums' in the rhythms, just in case some of you did like Discoteque. With such a stirring, rousing, grand opening statement and return to form for U2, we all believed the forthcoming album was gonna' be all that. No, don't deny it, you did.

Elevation hits that high too, with a little more boogie going for it, but nay, All That You Can't Leave Behind is a far mellower album than folks expected, and save the big singles, has kinda' fallen from memory as a result. Like, I've played this CD plenty of times now, but I can never remember how Peace On Earth or In A Little While goes. I do recall Walk On being another overplayed mall-radio jangle, and New York being a charming ode to The Big Apple, but I always forget they're from this album. Wild Honey has me thinking the Beach Boys rendition instead, and Kite... isn't this also Gorillaz' Slow Country?

And thus we reach this record's conundrum. For all the accolades All That You Can't Leave Behind earned, reinvigorating U2's career, and adoration it received at the time of release, when stacked against the band's greater body of work, it just can't live up to that legacy. The big singles, yes; the rest, not so much. For sure it was the right album at the right time, but that time has passed, and the older it gets, the further it falls in favour. These things happen.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Tuu - All Our Ancestors

Beyond/Waveform Records: 1994/1995

It's a strange thing, Tuu appearing on an 'ambient dub' label and all. Wouldn't they have made better sense on a New Age print? Perhaps, but the trio always floated around different musical circles than kooky mystic crystal worshippers. Their first album came out on the German print SDV Tonträger, more known for industrial sound experiments from the likes of Konrad Kraft and Jesus Drum. Meanwhile, knowing he'd have to do some serious hustle to get their band any sort of exposure, Martin Franklin would hawk Tuu's CDs and tapes in whatever stores would take them.

In the UK, that usually meant the underground joints where hardcore rave records were found aplenty. As luck/chance/fate would have it, Mr. Franklin ran into a label promoter in one such shop, where they shot the shit about what was what in the burgeoning chill-out scene flourishing in British afterhours venues. Just so happened that promoter was Mike Barnett, responsible for the seminal Beyond print, who already had a string of successful releases via the original Ambient Dub series. Sensing Tuu's style could add to Beyond's already broad downtempo pallete, they were brought on for a second album, All Our Ancestors. Then Waveform Records made it their second artist album release (after HIA's Colourform), and fourth overall. Man, talk about taking a gamble. Like, Tuu were well respected and all, but not exactly an act to sell a fledgling label with. Ah well, Loop Guru's Duniya was just around the corner anyway.

If you've forgotten exactly what Tuu sounds like (understandable, as I've only reviewed One Thousand Years many moons ago), they're a trio consisting of tribal drumming (bowls, pots), a single woodwind (typically flute), and some synthy pads and treatments. It's all very minimalist and haunting, as though you're listening to ritualistic meditative music from primitive cultures long since passed. All Our Ancestors doesn't do much to shake the formula, though when dealing with such a simple formula to start with, not much shaking can be done regardless. Compared to One Thousand Years, this album does see a little more involved songcraft, less about the lengthy hypnotic journeys compared to their debut.

Oddly, I find their music less engaging as a result. For sure all the familiar sounds and vibes are in All Our Ancestors, but the greater attention to musicianship doesn't draw me into the same hypnotic trance as compositions like Body Of Light and Pan America do. Those works, they instantly lodged in my headspace, and have remained there ever since. I sadly can't say the same for tracks like House Of The Waters or Rainfall here. My brain tells me these are technically better crafted pieces of music, with more intuitive sounds utilized. There's just something irresistible about the simplicity of their older works though. It's like, as a method of music that celebrates the most primitive of humanity's sonic artistry, it truly excels in its most uncomplicated form. And really, hasn't that always been ambient music at its best?

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Chris Witoski - All In Line

nizmusic: 2006

I hummed and hawed a little over whether I should review this. I'm under no real obligation to, see, as this feels more like a glorified demo, or a high-profile localized release if I'm being generous. And while I've reviewed a couple such items here and there, they remain on the 'electronic' side of things, music that I at least advertise as being covered on this blog. This is a rock release though – or a heavy, electric-folk one – Chris Witoski a guitarist who's made a tidy career touring Vancouver pubs and bars performing solo material. He's also part of a band called SplitTRACT, but more often than not, I see his name as a solo gig, and have for nearly a decade now. What I find so surprising about this is he performs at just about any location, from big venues like the River Rock Casino, to little hole-in-the-wall joints in my neighbourhood. That's dedication to one's art, leaving no gig turned down, just for the chance to always be playing for an audience, even ones in the ass-end of Vancouver's suburbs (Marpole still better than Killarney!).

As should be obvious, I have this CD because I happened to see Mr. Witoski one time at a bar downtown. Didn't know who he was but I'm pretty sure I liked the covers he was playing. What happened next is a blur, maybe I drunkenly sauntered up to him between sets to ask if he knew any Neil Young (as I always do to dudes with guitars), and somehow ended up with one of his CDs in my hand. The rest of that night... ooh, God, memorable for all the wrong reasons. The sort of events that have you wondering what you're doing with your life, whether the people you live with are doing you wrong, if there's any escape or solution to the insanity that has been thrust upon you, if you should 'man up' and not sleep in the bed while she stubbornly continues to sleep on the couch... where was I again? Darn associative flashbacks.

My background in acoustic-rock of this nature remains very limited, but if I was to give a musical comparison to what I hear from Chris Witoski's All In Line, I'd have to go with Our Lady Peace or The Tea Party. No, I can't be less Canadian about those comparisons. Mind you, Mr. Witoski doesn't have the nasally pitch of Raine Maida or the baritone of Jeff Martin, Chris' voice a pleasant crooning mid-range with multi-tracking flourishes. I'm just going by the musical comparison there. And save some drumming from Bobby James, all the instrumentation (mostly acoustic guitar) is done by Witoski as well. Production is a little stiff, but it's not like we're dealing with a CBC studio release here. Just some tunes by a local guy, committing his passion to a physical format to share with other. Bro, you should take it to Bandcamp, get some chedda' for your efforts!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Daft Punk - Alive 2007 (Original TC Review)

Virgin: 2007

(2018 Update:
Might this have been the Most Important tour in electronic music history? It certainly kicked off an arms race of spectacle concerts within the scene, where having the biggest, boldest, flashiest, gargantuan light show was a necessary evil in one's career arsenal. Good tunes and loyal fanbase just wasn't enough, you had to get them buzzing online, sharing phone videos on YouTube and Facebook of The Experience of seeing your act live. Heck, with so much visual stimuli, having 'good tunes' wasn't even a requirement any longer, any ol' 'thumpity thump-thump' rubbish being enough so long as 20 billion watts of LEDs and laser power is going down. And when
that is no longer enough, throw in a dinosaur or two.

I'll contend this remains the 'definitive Daft' collection of music though. Yes, it's missing their
Random Access Memories material, but really, what are we missing from that? Get Lucky, and maybe one other song you like from that album. No big loss when you have so much other dope material here. Besides, the live nature of those songs really wouldn't jive with all the boom-boom stuff here. Would work as a nice pre-show opener though.)

IN BRIEF: Definitive Daft.

Maybe Kanye West had something to do with it. It’s certainly possible the hip-hop star whispered just the right words to Thomas and Guy-Manuel about such things as ‘legacy’, as Mr. West is quite obsessed with his own. If so, the electronic community may owe him some thanks, lest Daft Punk might have still been in the collective “fallen off” category of many as we enter 2008. Because let’s face it: after the mediocre Human After All and an all-too perfunctory greatest hits package, the general assumption was Daft Punk were past their prime. That they would have the most successful dance-act tour a couple years later was the furthest from everyone’s mind.

Yet that’s exactly what they did. By combining both the simplest yet most visceral of what the genre offers, Alive 2007 earned plaudits and accolades and kudos and whatever else you may have from across the board. And most importantly, it reminded us just why we enjoyed these daffy punkers to begin with.

Naturally, an album release of the show was inevitable. As with any live recording though, the same ol’ question marks regarding the outcome still cropped up. How would the sound quality be? Will crowd noise enhance or hinder the atmosphere? How effectively does it make you feel like you are actually there? And most importantly, does it make you wish you were there at that moment? Screw-ups in any of these factors can make for a lackluster live album (see Vitalic’s recently released one for a perfect example) but when nailed, the home listening experience can be almost as exciting as being there in concert.

Since Alive 2007 is a couple months old now and several of you have already undoubtedly listened to this, I’ll save you the suspense: they nailed it. Everything.

Most prominent of all the awesome on this CD is the bass. Whether they placed their recording source in a perfect sweet-spot or relied on post-production trickery to get the maximum results, every track literally pounds and resonates with amazing arena realism. If you ever wanted to show off to your non-‘techno’ friends what beats sound like a rave, this is as good a demo as any. From thunder-like rumbles (Touch It) to cannonball gut-punches (Da Funk), the bass is a marvel to hear (and feel, should you be fortunate and rich enough to own a sound system of such quality).

But that’s more of a technical gush than anything, and could be found on any home-theater showcase. No, the reason you’re after this disc is for la musique, and Alive 2007 delivers in such a way I’m sure few could have expected.

Despite their singles being bona-fide classics in EDM canon, the general consensus here at TranceCritic is much of Daft Punk’s discography is littered with tracks of questionable quality. The duo’s hype has often helped elevate annoying go-nowhere tosh like Rock ‘n’ Roll to levels of acceptance among their fanbase. And while such tracks sometimes make sense when used as quick sound-bites, they do not for the lengths Daft Punk presented them on their albums.

Perhaps Thomas and Guy-Man eventually realized this too, as all these problems with their ‘filler’ tunes are abolished here. The best parts are cannibalized to complement the bigger hits, and it works fantastically! Take the Prime Time/Alive mash-up for instance: Prime Time Of Your Life is rather listless on its own, but with the vocal complementing the cascading synths of Alive, the joint venture soars with excitement.

Their set is filled with such wonderful moments. The ripping fusing of Rollin’ And Scratchin’s sledgehammer beats supporting The Brainwasher’s techy rhythms. Crescendolls giving Television Rules The Nation extra vitality at its peak (lord knows Television could have used it). And, perhaps the most cheeky and exhilarating example of them all, the killer combination of the number two hits off their first two albums: Around The World and Harder Better Faster Stronger. I have to wonder if even the most dedicated Daft Punk fan would have been able to cobble together a set of Daft tunes and made it work as excellently as Thomas and Guy-Man have here.

And then there’s just how immersive this release is. Live recordings can be hit or miss in making you feel like you’re actually there at the event, but this one is definitely a hit. Just watch a couple bootleg videos of the event or flip through the fifty-page-plus booklet that comes included in this two-discer to get a feel for how it looks, then close your eyes as it plays through. Okay, so those sorry sacks out there without an imagination probably won’t vibe on that, but indulge me on this. Ooh... pretty, that pyramid...

I honestly can’t recommend this album enough, for Daft Punk fans and for casual fans of EDM period. Every single one of their best tunes are here, all of the questionable tunes are given new life, it is all presented in an atmosphere that draws upon dance music’s strengths, and it comes in a package that makes it worth shelling out that extra couple bucks for. Throw in a great encore featuring some of Bangalter’s side projects on the second disc, and you have about as definitive a Daft Punk release as you’ve ever seen. Whether they’ll be able to ride their new-found popularity to larger heights in the coming years remains to be seen but unlike the fall-out from their last album, you can be rest assured their next project will be waited upon with bated breath by fan and foe alike.

Written by Sykonee for, 2008. © All rights reserved

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Slam - Alien Radio

Soma Quality Recordings: 2001

This is an album you'd think I'd have gotten when it was new. Thanks to endless Muzik Magazine plugging, lead singles like Lifetimes and Alien Radio were hyped to such a degree that I just had to have them! found on AudioGalaxy and free CD giveaways at least. Still, I liked those tunes, and I'm sure they'd be enough of a lure should I have found them within the Vancouver music shops. I don't recall spotting the album though, or if I did, something of greater interest nabbed my attention when burning limited funds in those early '00s recovery years (ooh, what's this Stylophonic about?). Time passes, and I think less and less of catching up on what Slam's been up to, Alien Radio fading from my thoughts as so many records do. Nice of that 20 Years Soma compilation to remind me (and a certain reader) of this album.

My memory's a little hazy now, but I believe Alien Radio was seen as Slam's big attempt at a big crossover event. Misters Meikle and McMillan were already respected techno producers, and being the brains behind Soma Quality Recordings certainly gave them a major feather in their cap. Despite being in the game for a decade though, they'd only released one album, 1996's Headstates. I honestly don't know much about it – never seen it name-dropped in “best of” lists or anything – but I'm sure it sounds fine. Given their pedigree, however, folks expected them capable of a classic LP effort, something that could be said along with the likes of Leftism, Dubnobasswithmyhead, Snivilisation, and whatever other classic UK techno efforts you consider Very Important.

To do that, however, you need a smashing radio single, and Lifetimes has all the hallmarks of that: killer hook, great vocal, strong musical build. Maybe just a little too on the nose for Slam's usual audience though. The titular cut is probably more up their alley, getting in on that nu-skool breaks action. No? Then what about Eyes Of Your Soul, a stab at vintage Lil' Louis Vegas deep, dubby house, including sporadic, echoing lyrics from Tyrone 'Visionary' Palmer? Still no? Then Dot Allison coming in with some wide-screen, chill-out vibes in Visions, that's gotta' serve your Slam needs! Or that Narco Tourists jam, that's gotta' satisfy even the most ardent old-schooler around, as lovely a chill-breaks-techno outing as you'll ever hear. Not old-school enough? Well, fine, here's Positive Education again, the original 1993 tune that made Slam's name in techno, given the reissue treatment since it never appeared on an album before. If that's not covering all the potential bases, I don't what is.

I rib, but for as solid and class as all these genre exercises are, I honestly get the most kicks out of the two straight-forward techno cuts closing out Alien Radio. Bass Addiction is a no-nonsense, thumping audio rumbler of a tune, while Virtuoso serves up some proper retro-future Detroit action. Keepin' it underground, keepin' it safe.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Various - Alien Dust 1

Psysolation: 2001

I've implied it in the past, a period when I'd completely written off psy-trance. It was only a few years, yet it's not like I came back into the fold willingly. Fortuneately, when I did return, I heard enough new ideas to keep me checking in ever since; if nothing else, Israeli full-on has that feather in its cap. And for all I know, the stuff that got me scoping psy out again had always been there, just unavailable to those way out in the Western provinces of Canadaland. I wasn't in any rush to dig through online stores though, the stuff I was finding so consistently dull and dry, it gave me the false impression that was what all psy-trance had become. Gone was the goa, missing was the tweaky acid, and dead on arrival were the rhythms – just, a lot of pseudo-deep minimal stuff, with sampling that was no where near as clever as it thought it was.

The final nail in the temporary isolation chamber I put myself into was this double-disc compilation. Oh, how seductive it was on the store shelves, a grey alien with eyes like new black polished chrome, luring me in for a listen. I had to obey its hypnotic gaze, hear what it had to offer, intake its intriguing space dust.

Alien Dust 1 gets off to a decent start, Fünf D's Das Signal a deep acid chugger with ominous pads and German words (always good for a sinister mood setter), followed by a solid, minimalist rhythm builder in Spirallianz' Blast Food - get a good primal, tribal vibe out of this one. Some solid tear-out psy is thrown down by Gill's First Elevation, and Human Blue is always good for classy material, of which Non Transparent Shadows does the trick (those dubby clattering drums!).

But then the compilation falls straight off a cliff after that, the remaining 1.5 CDs a dreary trudge of monotonous, 'deep' psy that kills whatever momentum Alien Dust had going for it. The lone bright spot, Electric Universe's Love Is Not A Crime, appears on Disc 2, and offers some much needed spaced-out, high flyin' goa vibes, but it's not enough to rescue the rest of the compilation. I guess Der Dritte Raum's Der Schrittmacher ain't too bad either, but he's done better, and doesn't really fit with the other artists involved in this release. And *whoof*, are the two cuts with guitars near the end ever weak-sauce. At least Akanoid's Base Breaker tries to ease us out with some pleasant space acid, but it's not worth sitting through all this mediocrity just to hear it.

Some of these might have sounded fine in compilations with more variety, where the flat songwriting worked in contrast with tunes with more flair. As presented here though, Alien Dust is a dull, monochrome, slog to get through. Can you blame me for giving up on the genre if this was your current impression of it?

Friday, December 21, 2018

Igorrr - Moisissure

Acroplane Recordings: 2008/2009

(a Patreon Request)

Pretty sure I've seen the name Igorrr in the past – one cannot even dabble in Venetian Snares without Igorrr's name getting dropped in association – but as for hearing his stuff, this is virgin territory, my friends. Still, how radically different can he be? You hear one breakcore artist, you've heard them all, amirite? Spastic Amen breaks, hyper editing, an aesthetic cribbed from another genre (ragga, chiptune, death metal, hentai), and a wacky sense of humour letting you know that everything involved is just one huge pisstake. Wait, that all sounds super awesome, and full of variety! Where was I going with this again? Oh yeah, with breakcore artists, you generally know what you're gonna' hear with these guys (re: that list above), but in a scene with dozens of extremely, ah, 'unique' individuals, you can count on something radically different from each one.

Of course, I don't know what specific things I might hear, and I couldn't help but take a peak at Igorrr's Discogs entry before diving in – don't want to be caught too unawares with these dudes. Straight off I'm hit with the word 'Baroque', which has me thinking, “ah, cool, there's gonna' be a lot of orchestral strings in this thing, as heard in some classic Aphex Twin music”. Occasionally, yes, but this Gautier Serre ain't limiting himself to that, nosiree. He's got himself some death metal in that creative cranium of his, which makes sense, baroque and metal sharing many musical traits. Just imagine Toccata And Fugue In D Minor with super-heavy guitar distortion! Oh, it's been done, you say. Like, a lot. Figures.

Anyhow, Moisissure is Igorrr's second album, though initially only as a self-released demo. When he later landed a proper label deal, this and his first demo, Poisson Soluble, were compiled into a double-disc item, but as I was requested to only review this, the first one will have to wait for another day. If I'm so inclined. Can't say I am though, Moisissure the sort of breakcore I'm equally delighted in, yet can't help but facepalm over too.

The baroque segments are nifty, I won't deny. Whether with creepy organs and strings (Valse en Décomposition), piano pieces (Œsophage De Tourterelle, Phasme Obèse), choirs (Liquid Requiem), flamenco guitars (Putrefiunt), or harpsichord (Huille Molle, Moelleux), no classical instrument is under-utilized or spared Igorrr's maniacal hyper-edits, often accompanied by glitched-out, thrashy rhythms. He even dabbles into swing-jazz for Brutal Swing, an old-timey ragtime ditty coupled with digital hardcore blast-beats and headbangin' metal riffs. I approve of this form of amusement making.

Other stuff, however, just leave my eyes rolled in their sockets. Death metal growling, babies crying, phlegm-filled breathing... is this all supposed to be funny, or kinda' serious? I assume the former, but I don't find it so, just annoying. Which, I'm sure, is also the point, creating discomfort in the listener. Aw, why do that, when you can showcase such operatic beauty as in Croute too? Gimme only good feels!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Various - Alien Ambient Galaxy

Hypnotic: 1996

When did I first discover Bill Laswell? This CD right here, which is funny, because it's not indicative of his larger, massive, ginormous body of work. I mean, only one track of the featured eight even has much of his distinct bass playing – it's a super long track, but still, just one. I probably heard him prior, but had no clue he existed, if that makes sense. You can hear some musicians – especially sessions musicians – in a multitude of songs without ever knowing who they are. Sure, one could study liner notes of every booklet and Discogs entry to know every performer ever, but man, who'd want to?

Had little choice with Alien Ambient Galaxy though, the only credits offering nothing but liner notes. Hell, the back cover just lists all the players involved, with no attribution to the list of tracks. For all you'd know, everyone performed together as one big conglomerate. Bill Laswell, Jah Wobble, Jeff Bova, Alex Hass, Pete Namlook, Liu Sola, Buckethead (yes, that Buckethead), Robert Musso, Mick Harris, and Nicky Skopelitis are... Alien Ambient Galaxy!

But no, that's not the case. In fact, only three projects actually make up this compilation, all of which Laswell had some hand in, care of his short-lived Subharmonic print. Most prominently featured is Divination, a world music, ambient drone project that could be considered a proper conglomerate of musicians. There's four tracks of the group here, but they're mostly subtle, droning pieces, serving more as transitional tracks between the other ones. I'll talk about them more at a later date, but again, I must give a flustered name-drop in seeing Buckethead's there.

A few other tracks are from Cypher 7, a duo consisting of Hass and Bova, with Laswell performing “navigation & ground control”. These are more interesting, giving Alien Ambient Galaxy some needed diversity and flair. Conspiracy Of Silence opens the CD with mysterious, ominous tones, feeding into alien paranoia that was so popular in the '90s, while The Suspicious Shamen does an upbeat ambient dub thing with piano flourishes. Nothing Lasts, meanwhile, features a bouncy beat while French actress Jeanne Moreau drunkenly laments about lost passion. Not sure how it ties into an alien ambient concept, but it's a cool sounding tune nonetheless.

And finally, clocking in at over thirty-eight minutes, is one of Bill and Pete's Psychonavigation outings – the lengthy track with the lengthy title of Psychic And UFO Revelations In The Last Days. It features Laswell's bass, Namlook's space pads, a simple dubby rhythm, a lot of dithering passages of music interspersed with sci-fi effects, and strangely hypnotic throughout its runtime. Plus, it contains dialog from the DS9 episode Emissary, so instant awesome right there.

Strange presentation aside, Alien Ambient Galaxy is a nifty little collection of tunes if you like your ambient on the mysterious side of things. Even with the amount of Laswellian music I've since heard, this still remains a remarkably unique offering of what he's made within his vast discography.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Alice In Chains - Alice In Chains

Columbia: 1995

Of the Big Four Of Grunge, I know the least about Alice In Chains. I'm sure I heard them in music video rotation and soundtracks, as you couldn't escape the grunge movement growing up a teenager of the Gen-X variety. Compared to the ubiquitous presence of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, however, Alice In Chains somehow slipped me by. I always saw Nevermind, Ten and Superunknown on store shelves and within peers' CD collections, but I can't recall spotting Dirt among them. Maybe I didn't know what to look for, what tunes I should have noticed on their mixtapes, but fact remains for much of grunge's peak, I only knew Alice In Chains in name only, as yet another band that the rock world seemed to really like. Them and Blind Melon.

Hell, even when this particular album dropped, with cover art you couldn't turn away from if you tried, it still took me a while to clue in it was an Alice In Chains record. Like, weren't they pioneers of the Grunge Tree or something? Then again, Live kinda' made the Grunge Tree a joke, so I can understand why they'd not want anything to do with it. Instead, let's get a photo of a poor three-legged canine, and on the flip, feature a three-legged human! Nice way of showing how having too little and too much of something (in this case, legs) can be an impediment to one's existence.

Right, time to get into music discussion, and I'm afraid this is about where I'll lose all those AiC fans. As said, my knowledge of the band is extremely slight, even with their biggest hits. This self-titled third album did hit the top spot on on the Billboard 200, but I don't recall hearing much of anything from it when it was new, much less compared to their earlier work. I can only offer my thoughts on how it sounds to these virgin ears in the here and now.

And boy, is this ever one sludgy, grungy sounding album. I know the genre had moved on from its original form by '95, but AiC do a good job keeping the bleak tone intact, despite an ever increasingly optimistic decade (drug problems help). There really isn't much in the way of hooks or melodies, everything a dank, dour, atonal thrum of guitar distortion and Layne Staley's depressive vocals. Anything that does leap out is usually on the bass end, like the heavy rhythm stomp of Sludge Factory and God Am. Some kick the tempo up (So Close, Head Creeps) but for the most part, we're trawling through the Seattle murk.

I actually find the atonal nature of this album addictive, like a comforting glumness I want to explore further. Sit back with headphones, the layers of distortion overwhelming, and peel them back, finding the golden goo underneath. Alice In Chains may not catch my attention so readily as other rock, but it does keep luring me back for another spin.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Nova - Albedo

Ultimae Records: 2005

If I'm gonna' break my oath and buy old-school Ultimae releases in a digital format, I might as well do it for all of them, right? I can still hold out hope for hard-copy re-issues of items like Distances, Earthshine, and Memory Shell, but really, I'm only denying myself by not going the digital route with the rest. Besides, it's not like there's many Ultimae CDs I haven't gathered. My collection of their releases is remarkably thorough, especially considering it was 2009 that I started buying in earnest (what humble-brag?).

Albedo came out quite early in Ultimae's lifespan, around that transitional point after the label had properly established itself with a few core acts and a solid, continuous compilation series. Time to take that next step, then, and expand the roster, release extra content on other formats (not vinyl tho', no one buys that stuff), and launch additional compilations, broadening your exposure beyond the lucky few within the psy-chill community who'd already stumbled upon your work. Albedo was the first volley into this wider world of scene dominance, with nothing less than a bold step into the domain of conceptual compilations.

Okay, I'm over-selling a little, but for as much choice music the Fahrenheit Project provided, they generally remained regular ol' compilations showcasing Ultimae's manifesto. As one of the label's primary DJs, Massimo Terranova undoubtedly had his own ideas on how to curate the various gathered muses, and he was given the opportunity with Albedo, technically Ultimae's first DJ mix CD, though still in the 'partially mixed' form their other discs do.

Still, 'Nova' got to indulge in more of a focused musical narrative, and have himself a clutch of all new, exclusive music from most of Ultimae's main players: Dana, Hol, CBL, and, of course, Mr. Fields, dropping yet another utterly sublime piece of music in Fiat Lux, making me cry to the heavens that this guy can do a 'toss-off' track with such ease. Some scene vets like Ishq and Vir Unis also contribute, while a couple cats get their start here as well (Between Interval, Antonio Testa).

So the music is all panoramic and lush, as you know it would be from a mid-'00s Ultimae release. As a set though, Nova does a good job in showing off tonal contrasts, with the early sections featuring something of an urban, technological bent (so much radio static in Between Interval's Wishful Thinking), gradually going full-on nature by set's end. While there are clear sections within Albedo (hoo, does Fiat Lux ever mark the end of one), everything flows smoothly throughout, like chapters of the story Nova wishes to tell. Still, as these are essentially tunes made for Nova's mix and not their own albums, it's not the crème de la crème of their respective discographies. Yes, even the ridiculously wonderful Fiat Lux. Thus, if I'm to be honest, I can't say Albedo reaches those upper echelons of Ultimae's catalogue, but it sure does push up against that impossibly-high ceiling.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Bubble - Airless

Mushy Records: 2005

I've never mentioned this, but my 2005 re-entry into the world of psy-trance was via a promo package sent to me from the now defunct Boa Distribution. Included in that package was Electro Sun's Pure Blue, the compilation Buckle Up, Vol. 2: Trancelucent Garage (aka: that one with the tacky cartoon of naked chicks), and the downtempo collection of Unwind: A Journey Into Global Grooves. Unbeknownst to everyone though, there was a fourth CD in that bundle, one I found so shockingly bad, I couldn't in good conscience write a review of it too. Okay, it wasn't so much I'd feel guilty on ripping a new artist, but rather I didn't want to so viciously bite the hand that fed me. TranceCritic had already dealt with managers not pleased with us being just another outlet of enthusiasm press, when Paul van Dyk's team pulled back an interview request following Jack Moss' less-than adulatory write-up of Politics Of Dancing 2. However, I never got further packages from Boa, so my discretion was moot.

Plus, I doubt anything I'd have written back when would have made much difference. The duo behind Bubble – Guy Sarnat and Karen Bagdasarov – have maintained a steady career to this day, no small feat in the overcrowded realm of Israeli full-on. True, their last album outing was in 2011, but they've continued a trickle of singles, a smattering of Soundclouds, and a permanent presence on the festival circuit, with a dedicated following eating up their brand of light-weight psy. They've got it made, and all the more power to them for their success. Their debut album's still balls, though.

I get what they're shooting for, Infected Mushroom's influence evident throughout Airless. With song-writing so disjointed and production so cheap, however, it's rare anything clicks in this album. Opening track I'm Looking nicely exemplifies what I'm getting on about. Gentle guitar strumming gets us started, then that plastic, lifeless rhythm the worst of Israeli full-on uses appears, burying everything in the mix. The guitar's still going, but details are lost, nor does it sync with the supporting superfluous effects.

And it just gets sadder from there, I'm Looking diving into 'buttrock' territory with hilariously limp shredding that has no idea what the rhythm's doing, and a pathetic piano patch even Casio keyboardists would shun. This is also that kind of segmented full-on gibberish, where nothing musically ties together, everything arranged in the most generic of random wibble I've ever heard out of the genre. That's just one track out of eight, and things get worse the deeper into Airless we go. Dear God, won't someone save that poor piano patch?

Bubble clearly had ambitious ideas, and sometimes they come through (Class-X has a nifty squealing acid line, Bubble In Panic's rhythms don't suck so hard). Sadly, they lacked the songcraft experience and production capability to see them to fruition here. It's like a teenage garage band shooting for Led Zeppelin epics in their earliest sessions. Not recommended.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Sasha - Airdrawndagger

BMG UK & Ireland: 2002

I sure remember the hot anticipation for Sasha's debut album. Like, there was long, gestating buzz over whether he'd ever do the deed, as the discourse is wont to go when it comes to popular DJs. Curating all those class trance records, groovy progressive house tracks, and spiritual superclub vibes, surely had to impress some inspiration upon Mr. Coe such that his muse demanded his own tunes too. And as his career continuously went from strength to strength (Renaissance, Northern Exposure, Xpander EP!), the time seemed right to drop an LP of original music in ye' olde year of 2002. (whoa, deja-vu)

Everyone's familiar with Airdrawndagger's story: big hype, lukewarm response, now regarded a relic of prog's heyday. For sure folks enjoyed what they heard on this album, but it wasn't the knock-down smash they hoped for. As though they needed this record to definitively and emphatically resuscitate and cement progressive house/trance/breaks' legacy as the One Genre To Rule Them All.

Instead, Sasha – yes, Charlie May and Junkie XL lended a heaping helping hand – set out for something more conceptual, music just as enjoyable being played at home as hearing rinsed out in the clubs. And hoo, he done did that, the tunes on Airdrawndagger utterly lush within my headphone space. Sixteen years on, the production's as cutting edge as the day it dropped, even if the song-writing mostly remains stuck in the past. Which is fine. Despite some wailing that there was nothing as instantly classic as Xpander on here, Sasha maintained Airdrawndagger was an assemblage of his various influences throughout his years of DJing. Or just coming due on all those half-formed ideas floating about from his 'studio time' following missed gigs.

So you get the chill tunes setting the mood early, but holding nothing back on opulent synth melodies either (Mr. Tiddles, Magnetic North), all the while keeping the rhythms at a steady groove. Then things get more technical than musical for a while, which is dope if you dig sound design in your beatcraft, but may be lacking if you need your melodies up front and obvious. James Holden to the rescue then, as Bloodlock might as well be a solo-Holden track, the sort of twinkle-prog he practically pioneered. It's almost shocking to hear this tune now, considering both Sasha and Holden would disown it so soon after. That Coldharbour crew though, they had no problem claiming it.

The album kinda' eases things down from there, Requiem a spritely ambient outing, Golden Arm a steadying prog groover, and Wavy Gravy a chipper prog-breaks closer. Not the rousing finale you'd expect from Sasha and co., but again, Airdrawndagger never was gonna' be a dozen tracks of clubbing fodder. Next-gen production aside, this is mostly a record with no aspirations of commercial appeal, but rather music making that sates one's own soul. And hey, if anyone else gets something out of it, all the better. Such modesty strangely makes it better the older it gets.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Mark Farina - Air Farina

OM Records: 2003

I honestly can't remember whether Mark Farina's debut album was hotly anticipated or not. Like, I'm sure there was long, gestating buzz over whether he'd ever do the deed, as the discourse is wont to go when it comes to popular DJs. Curating all those class deep house records, groovy downtempo tracks, and funky Chicago-San Fran' vibes, surely had to impress some inspiration upon Mr. Farina such that his muse demanded his own tunes too. And as his career continuously went from strength to strength (Mushroom Jazz, OM Records, Frisco Disco!), the time seemed about right to drop an LP of original music in ye' olde year of 2003.

Yet, I was taken completely by surprise when I saw it sitting in the store that day, having heard not a word about it prior. Part of that was the unfortunate death of rags I was following at the time, but even among music boards I lingered on, I didn't see much hype on Air Farina, nor much talk of it since, and I live around his hottest touring regions. It all seems very odd to yours truly, especially since I quite enjoy the album ...after a time.

Right, my initial reaction to hearing Air Farina's production was utter befuddlement. Farina's trademark DJing sound is of irresistible deep funky house, with sounds and production that warms the soul. This stuff though, it sounds like it was made on a plastic Apple music box, everything ultra-compressed and nary a spot of grit and grime within. I get no sense of Chicago warehouses or California beaches – it's as though Farina took his 'music from airports' concept all the way to the aesthetic level, existing in an artificial reality where nothing seems quite real or lived-in. For sure, once the album gets moving, and the songcraft has its chance to strut its stuff, the production becomes less of an issue. And hey, I cannot deny I've never heard any other album sounding like this, much less within the realms of house music, so Air Farina at least stands out on that merit alone. Whether you dig it or not probably boils down to how much you like Mark's tunes, and as I still don't hear much talk about this album fifteen years on, well...

Interspersed with dialog from pilot training videos (plus a humorous clip from The Phantom), Air Farina plays out in enjoyable chunks, a downtempo jam or two followed up by a run of bumpin' house tunes with ear-wormy vocals samples. There's no denying Marks' skill in making his own house, tunes like Dropped Into Water, Gramma So, and Leaving SF just as infectiously groovy as anything he's rinsed out. Meanwhile, floating chill moments like Dream Machine and dips into hip-hop with People Under The Stairs (Travel) show off his diversity just fine. Just, man... that ultra-plastic production though. I can understand why some are ambivalent towards Air Farina, when all they desire is another Mushroom Jazz session.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Scooter - Age Of Love (Original TC Review)

Club Tools: 1997

(2018 Update:
My head tells me I should hate this. My gut tells me it. Heck, even my heart tells me it. Yet, there's something that always keeps me from hating this album like I'm told I'm supposed to. Some overpowering feels from the spleen? Like, I don't go out of my way to play this often, maybe once every few years, save a chance random encounter on my media player's shuffle option, but when it does play, I still get into it just the same. I think this album releases the same stoopid-fun endorphins tracks like Sash!'s
Ecuador does, and there's nothing wrong with that. We all have our silly little pleasures within our musical tastes, and if you don't, then I imagine you're just a dreadful bore to be around.

As for how Scooter's career went after I wrote this review, the group jumped on the dubstep bandwagon. Of course they would.)

IN BRIEF: Scooter’s turning point.

As vehemently as they’ll deny it, it’s safe to say a lot of EDM’s followers went through a Scooter phase. For some it may have been a brief flirtation during their initial rave years, others a lingering dedication. However long it was though, the reasons for it tend to be the same: the group made some undeniably fun anthems.

Ah, you’ve noticed the use of past tense. I suppose I should explain. Y’see, friends, Scooter’s discography can easily be split into two eras, each with a number of name variations. For example: Bueller years/post-Bueller years; pre-excessive covers/post-excessive covers; pre-shit/shit. Whatever you call it, Scooter’s initial mid-90s output was a guilty pleasure for many. That all changed when Ferris Bueller (aka: Sören Bühler, H.P.'s cousin) left and the group and began relying more on covers rather than original productions for their hit singles. Accusations of ‘sell-out’ and ‘going to Hell in a cheese basket’ dominated many discussions, and Scooter became the target of every biting punch-line regarding the worst aspects of commercialized dance. They may not have much artistic credibility left, but who cares about that when you can fight with Cascada for top spot on the dance charts, eh?

Anyhow, a change of direction often has a catalyst, and their album Age Of Love certainly was that. Beyond the fact this was the last Bueller album, there’s a sense Scooter were aiming for larger audiences than their initial happy hardcore fanbase, and why not? This was 1997 here, folks, when everyone figured they just might have a chance at hitting the big time. So how does one go about doing so?

First, out goes the hardcore and in comes more of the trance; nearly half the album is dedicated to the popular club style of the era that wasn't too different from most euro-dance (re: pre-epic). Next, branch out into other genres that are garnering attention from the masses: big beat, jungle, rock hybrids -‘electronica’, in other words. And finally, have one of your singles feature on a major motion picture to grab that always lucrative non-electronic consumer. Perfect formula for success, right? Um...

Alright, the big single here, Fire, certainly did succeed in its aim. Aside from the fact it is a decent bit of hard dance fun, by featuring on sequel soundtracks to Mortal Kombat and Hackers, Scooter got to rub elbows with respected names like Leftfield, The Prodigy, and Juno Reactor. Along the way, the thrashin’ guitar riffs grabbed the approving attention of many metal-heads. I’d commonly hear “fuck, that fucking techno shit is fucking shit, but Fire’s alright” from long-haired associates.

Then there’s The Age Of Love. I’ve heard it called corny, cheesy, and a complete rip-off of the Terminator theme; in trying to combine the sounds of trance with the effusive sentimentality of happy hardcore, Scooter created a disgrace of a tune. Oh shut up. Yes, it is all those things. That’s exactly the point! It’s what Scooter did so well in those days: pure, guilt-free anthemic fun. This is ‘stadium techno’ as The KLF spearheaded, and The Age Of Love is just as effective as anything they did.

The rest of the album mostly amounts to agreeable filler. There really isn’t anything that is whole-sale awful, but nor does it leap out at you as essential either. Hit The Drum stands out a bit more by getting back to a ‘stadium techno’ sound, and includes one of H.P.’s more ridiculous lines: “‘Cause we are ready to shake the nation with another creation!” Also, Tonight’s take on ol’ school jungle and Return Of The Future’s standard trance execution are intriguingly entertaining, mostly for the fact they veer so far off the expected Scooter path; if you didn’t know better, you’d swear they were by another act. However, these examples didn’t win over their detractors then, and they certainly won’t today either.

Still, Age Of Love is probably one of the better albums in Scooter’s discography. Even when the songs are little more than simple dance pop, they present them with such infectious zesty energy it is hard to resist, provided you leave the Bitter Beer in the cooler before listening. If you are quite new to this whole electronic music thing, you could do worse (like Scooter’s recent offerings). And even if you aren’t, Age Of Love still has a bit of charm for those moments when you just need a reason to get up and shout. Nothing wrong with that, now is there?


Oh, wait. There’s one more track here. A cover of a Depeche Mode song. Hold on... *plays the ballad Leave In Silence*

I take it all back. Scooter are shit.

Written by Sykonee for, 2007. © All rights reserved

Enigma - Age Of Loneliness

Virgin: 1994

This was kinda'-sorta' Enigma's lead single going into their second LP, The Cross Of Changes, though existing as Carly's Song at that point. And as it was produced between albums, it sounds more like a left-over from MCMXC a.D., utilizing all the musical tricks Michael Cretu turned into a global smash on such tracks like Sadeness and Mea Culpa: ethnic vocal sample, woodwinds, Sandra's whispery voice, heavy sexy rhythms. Not quite at his Return To Innocence stage, then, but what can you expect for something made specifically for the Sharon Stone erotic thriller Sliver?

In fact, Mr. Cretu was approached to score the whole movie. Makes sense, as his music – or more specifically, knock-offs of Sadeness - had been popping up in many Skinemax films throughout the early '90s. As Sliver was the hotly anticipated follow-up to Sharon Stone's star-making turn in Basic Instinct, an appropriately sexy-sounding soundtrack was required, so why not get the real deal? However, Cretu was already moving on from that sound, getting more in touch with the New Age side of his muse – less sensuality, more spirituality. He still offered up a song, Carly's Song (Carly was the name of Stone's character), and even had an artsy erotic music video made for it with Stone lip-syncing the lyrics. The movie critically bombed though, leaving that single a quirky footnote in the Enigma canon.

Fast forward a year, The Cross Of Changes comes out, and rather than letting Carly's Song sit fallow, Cretu gave it some light retouches, turning it into Age Of Loneliness for the album. There must have been enough buzz surrounding the track as heard there, for it was re-released as the third single from the album, and given a whole new video in support. This time, something MTV friendly, wide shots of a sepia Manhattan with superimposed people floating in water, as though hovering about a myriad of urban locales. I've had dreams like that.

As for the single itself, there's only two items of note, including Cretu's own clubby remix of the track. Though he has dabbled in uptempo tunes, we generally don't think of Enigma as a dancefloor friendly act, but the Enigmatic Club Mix offers a convincing argument in that favour. While not doing anything progressive house acts of the day hadn't already covered, it suitably grooves along while letting all the familiar elements play about as necessary. Plus, those beeps heard throughout are Morse Code for “I love you”, which is such a clever musical Easter Egg, I'm stunned we don't hear that gimmick more often.

But the reason folks from 'the underground' were interested in this single was the Jam & Spoon Remix. Aww, yeah, the original trance tastemakers, having a go at one of the most Enigma-tic tracks in Enigma's early career! This is gonna' be... uh, super chill, apparently. It's basically the same song, just stripped down, with a weird, soft, drippy rhythm. Gotta' give credit for subverting expectations, I guess.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Aquasky - Aftershock

Moving Shadow: 2000

Aquasky was among Moving Shadow's new breed of drum 'n' bass tastemakers taking the scene into bold new territories as the Millennium turned. I know this, because a lot of the PR blurbs surrounding Aquasky said so. More than that, they had no problem flitting beyond the strict borders junglists demanded of their artists. Breaks? Sure, they can do that too, and maybe even give a few bassline pointers to those emerging nu-skool doods. Trip hop? Ain't no th'ang, every ace producer having a chill side too. Nu-jazz? Oh, hey, let's not get carried away. Just because Kruder & Dorfmeister tapped a track for their DJ-Kicks doesn't mean you should go that far beyond your boundaries. Maybe try something safer, like jazzstep. (note: the tune on DJ-Kicks is jazzstep, but why ruin a joke with facts?)

A trio of cats (Brent Newitt, Kieron Bailey, Dave Wallace), Aquasky initially debuted with a handful of singles on Moving Shadow, as many d'n'b acts were wont to do. They must have generated quite the buzz, as Polydor swooped in and offered them a deal, the mini-album Orange Dust emerging. I assume that didn't turn out as the players involved hoped, for Aquasky was right back in the Moving Shadow fold shortly after, releasing a proper LP in the form of Bodyshock. That one did better, so good that a remix album was commissioned the following year. That's no small feat, remix albums few and far between within the d'n'b scene to that point. Goldie's Timeless never got one. Roni Size's New Forms never got one. Perhaps a couple stray examples exist throughout the '90s, but fact remains Aftershock is a rare beast for its time. Or a hastily cobbled cash-grab quick to capitalize on all the hype Bodyshock had generated – would explain the totally borked track list on the CD.

No, seriously, how does one completely screw up a track list like this? Nothing is sequenced as laid out on the back of the booklet, and given that the compilation itself actually flows remarkably well for a remix album, I'm assuming what I hear is the intended order. Corduroy's rub on Battlestar is a fine funky, bass-heavy opener, while Sketch's go with Sonix feeds your reptile brain with some savage bass throbs and shuffly 2-step rhythms. At track five, we take a break from the breaks 'n' bass business for Mr. Scruff lending his funky jazz touch to Man Made Symphony, but for the longest time, I was told this was Stalker (Timecode Remix). Given the players involved, that don't make a lick of sense.

I suspected something was up when the obviously London Elektricity rub of Rebirth was titled Zero Tollerance (Aquasky Remix), and the track titled Rebirth (London Elektrcity Remix) sounded nothing like a London Elektricity remix. It wasn't until The Lord That Knows All graced my existence that I was enlightened upon Moving Shadows' erroneous handling of Aftershock. I wonder if that's why Aquasky left the label again, after this?

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Supercar - Highvision

Ki/oon: 2002

(a Patreon Request from Philoi)

Not shockingly, most reviews I write are filled with regurgitated factoids from other sources. Having gorged myself in certain scenes, however, I've some insight into artists, genres, and trends that may not be readily available elsewhere – I feel confident when I wax the bull about Ambient Album #314,219,110, it's with some knowledge on the matter. Even stuff I'm not so boned up on, like Japanese indie rock and pop, I can usually find some additional info, giving me a stronger foundation to work from – the wiki on Wednesday Campanella was most helpful. This Supercar though, I'm just not finding much from English sources, save one Hell of a loving 'review' for this particular album on Sputnik Music.

Holy cow, but does user davidwave4 ever get into it more than I could possibly hope to, settling for nothing less than calling Highvision Supercar's Kid A. That's... quite a comparison to make there, mang', one I've no idea is apt or not. Like, there's nothing on this album that sounds like Kid A - certainly no ambient drone pieces like Treefingers - but he's not making a one-to-one music relation. Rather, he's comparing Supercar's discographical narrative to Radiohead's, with Futurama being their OK Computer, thus Highvision their Kid A. More succinctly, Futurama was the schizophrenic embracing of technology, while Highvision is the uncertain merging, accepting that change has come, and we must make do with that reality no matter how unsettling it makes us feel. Sure, guy, you go with that. I never dove deep into Radiohead's music, so have to take other people's word that such proclamations of “this is [artist]'s Kid A” as legit. By the by, when did Kid A supplant Sgt. Pepper's that way?

Right, I should get into Highvision on my own terms, which means the best I can provide is a 'dumb listen'. No deep analysis of lyrics (I can't understand them most of the time, just like Radiohead's Thom Yorke!) or genre dissertation – just simple “d'is music do this, it make me feel like d'is!” interpretations. And whoa, that's quite the distorted techno kick opening things up in Starline. There's still a regular drum kit in play too, just with an added 909 crunchy-thunk. Then there's shoegazey guitars, dream pop singing, and it feels as though I'm being lulled into a hazy headspace. That's definitely a change of tone compared to the upbeat dance number of Futurama's Changes.

And that vibe is mostly maintained throughout Highvision, a remarkable feat considering the disparate styles of music among these ten tunes. Songs flit between electro-pop ditties (Warning Bell, Strobolights, I), shoegaze rock-outs (Storywriter, Otogi Nation), dreamy dance jangles (Yumegiwawa Last Boy), and whatever orchestra electro-glitch thing Nijiiro Darkness is. Heck, there's even a thematic return with closer Silent Yaritori, that crunchy 909 kick reappearing. And best of all, Highvision leaves me feeling elated and high in spirit, which is a better feeling than the dourness of Kid A.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Vector Lovers - Afterglow

Soma Quality Recordings: 2007

I sure wasn't expecting this. My lone exposure to Vector Lovers around this point was the Late Shift / Babette EP, two tracks clearly with tech-house DJs in mind, and which I assumed his most recent album, Afterglow, mostly focused on. Never mind neither track appeared on the album, and that they were released on a label that has nothing to do with Mr. Wheeler's usual outlet. It's just standard practice that, within a window of a couple years, the music on EPs will sound like the music on LPs. And while those were fine for what they are, they didn't urge me to check out Afterglow, presumptuous as I was in thinking it'd be a record full of the stuff. I mean, geez, there wasn't any of the electro-anime aesthetic that made me love his self-titled debut.

I was half-right. Afterglow is definitely a much different beast compared to Vector Lovers and Capsule For One. Rather than dealing with feelings of loneliness in a hyper-technological age though, this album shoots far further into the future, in the aftermath of a nuclear wasteland. There's still that characteristic Martin Wheeler melancholy lurking in the melodies, but they're far more sparse and isolated, a sadder, darker tone permeating the atmosphere as a barely surviving civilization comes to grips with just how fucked up shit has turned.

Okay, Afterglow may not specifically be about that. I mean, that ominous mushrooming glow in the background of the cover art could be the sun setting over a hilltop. On the other hand, the opening track is called Half-Life, which mostly features Geiger Counter pops, despondent strings, and the sounds of something scuffling through abandoned radio frequencies. I'm pretty sure the Fallout games start like that.

Following Half-Life, we get tracks with titles like Far Side Of The Tracks, Rusting Cars And Wild Flowers, Piano Dust, and Dusk Panorama, all painting a rather bleak and desolate vista from which this music dwells. And things don't lighten within the the tunes themselves, a fair bit of empty space and twitchy experimentation going on throughout. Even the tracks with those vintage twee Vector Lovers melodies can't escape the ominous overtones. Example: an inky, oozing bassline accompanying the chipper, sliding leads in A Field. Of what few 'upbeat' tunes Martin provides, even they can't escape the omnipresent gloom. Crash Premonition features what sounds like klaxon bells echoing from the distance before settling into a groovy tech-house number, complete with lyrics about the freedom of the open road, long lost in this wasteland. No funky dancing robots in this place.

Overall, Afterglow reminds me of Boards Of Canada's Tomorrow's Harvest, similar ideas and themes explored, though through Wheeler's electro-glitch lens. And despite a slight glimmer of hope emerging in the titular closer (nature reclaiming its lost lands), this is one depressing album. It's a good kind of depression, mind you, the sort you savour for rainy days, but man, do I need to mentally prep for it before going in.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Various - Aeon Nemesis

Werkstatt Recordings: 2014

Aww yeah, this is exactly what's lured me into synthwave, isn't it? Retro futurism, cosmic setting, video game cockpit, vector grids galore. And ooh, can't forget that potential narrative brewing. What is the Aeon Nemesis? An inter-dimensional being we must fight? The concept of defeating time itself? Just a couple of cool sounding words slapped together for marketing purposes? So many conceptual possibilities, these synthwave albums, and what better way to truly explore those limitless ideas than rounding up a bunch of producers with similar muses for a big ol' label showcase? That'll get folks digging deeper into the back-catalogue, no doubt.

If you're wondering how I ended up with so many Werkstatt Recordings items, it's because of compilations like this. Get the main feature, plus a bulk deal on CDs with tie-in artists. From this, I nabbed Beatbox Machinery (of course), Toxik Synther, Advanced UFO Phantom, plus a nifty t-shirt with Arcade Metropolis' logo across. Funny thing, regarding that t-shirt. When I wear it to work, a co-worker inquiries whether it's in association with the Arcade Metropolis once located in downtown Vancouver (before the dark times; before the gentrification). Naturally not, but does that ever bring back memories, wandering the once seedier side of the city's urban core, where all manner of strange, darkened places warned that only surly teenagers could enter. To say nothing of the striking mannequins my father would suddenly flush with embarrassment should we venture past on the way to a second-hand music shop. Man, downtown Vancouver was a different beast back when. Not quite Times Square pre-Rudy or anything, but there's a reason many pick-up shots for a Manhattan-based movie would be done in Vancouver.

Anyhow, I had a'lotta anticipation going into this one, as cool cover art is wont to do upon my psyche. You'd think after so many years led astray by dodgy psy trance CDs with cool cover art that I'd learn it, too, can happen in other scenes, especially ones as filled with amateur producers as synthwave. It's not that the music within Aeon Nemesis is piss-poor or anything, but it doesn't lift itself to the standards I've gone and set for myself either. Yes, I've actually developed 'standards' for synthwave – there's only so much time I can give to the endless options this genre now has, and I don't need to waste it on middle-of-the-road material.

A few tracks do offer some nifty ideas, like Beta Grid's hip-hop electro-acid Omni-Halo Matrix, Liege Viper's peppy outrun outing of Rising Star, and Arcade Metropolis' epic excursion of Take Hold Of The Flame - at six-minutes of runtime, it easily outpaces everything else on this compilation. Unfortunately, little else stands out from the synthwave glut, and nothing really highlights or builds upon whatever theme Aeon Nemesis was going for. It's just another collection of synthwave tunes, though did come with some cool extra swag if you jumped on it first run. Werkstatt's swag game is always on point.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Lars Leonhard - Adrift In Time

self release: 2018

What does one do when an artist you like has so many albums available as a digital-only option, but you've developed a silly stance of only buying physical items? The logical course of action is to forego such a backwards-ass position, and do the right and proper thing of moving forward with the times, accepting that digital-only music is a viable and totally acceptable means of procuring tunes these days. However, I'm not so logical. In my mind, if I maintain long, unyielding hope that one day, Lars Leonhard would find a willing label to make hard-copy versions of all those stockpiled Bandcamp albums, there's no need to spring for a digital version. And lo', my illogical hope doth bore fruit, Mr. Leonhard's music finally finding its way to discs of aluminum, care of... Mr. Leonhard himself? Ah, well, if you want something done, sometimes you gotta' do it yourself, right?

That being said, it seemed releasing music on BineMusic gave his LPs a sense of focus. Whether it was retelling tales of aborted airline flights or odes to those traversing the lonely rail cars late at night, there were clear stories on those works. His stuff since, however, appears broader in scope, titles like Erstwhile, Deep Venture and Interstellar suggesting music with less narrative focus, and rather capturing certain moods and atmosphere. Such remains the case with Adrift In Time, one of three albums Lars released this past year (holy cow!). Like, what, exactly, is adrift in time? Lars' muse? The listener as they listen? The sounds as they play out, streaming on an ever-lasting electromagnetic wavelength to the furthest reaches of the cosmos? No, wait, that's probably Interstellar's game. And it's not like the Bandcamp copy gives a clear idea either, essentially stating that this is Leonhard music for its own sake. Okay, that's good enough for me.

Playful nitpicking aside, Adrift In Time pretty much is exactly the sort of music I've come to expect from Lars, and welcome indeed. Downtempo music that never meanders. Dub techno sounds that remember to work in a little melody. Deep layers of pads and reverb that let you get lost in cavernous headphone space. A few gentle nudges into the cinematic soundscapes, though only the most sweeping shots of nature's splendour will suffice. Actually, check that. Given the track titles have something of an earthy, geomorphology bent to them (Onyx, Sparks, Grounded, Highlands, Saphir), I imagine mostly static images of landforms, played out as time-lapse movies, the achingly gradual shifting of masses over the ages. Seems right up dub techno's general aesthetic, such visuals.

Mostly, Adrift In Time keeps things on the downbeat, with only a couple tracks upping the tempo towards anything club friendly (Onyx, Sparks). Not that Lars is generally a DJ friendly producer, but it has been part of his repertoire over the years. Not on this outing though, these tunes intended for chilling back with superior sound-systems at your disposal.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

I:Cube - Adore

Versatile Records: 1999

An album I've long looked forward to talking about, but also kinda' feared doing so. For some, I:Cube's sophomore effort is among the glistening jewels of criminally overlooked French house gems, a record that should have been at the tips of everyone's tongue come the new millennium, and cemented Nicolas Chaix among the upper elite of clubland's tastemakers. I suppose I rank myself among those “some”, Adore blowing my mind when I stumbled upon it. I knew of him, tracks like Le Dub and the titular cut appearing on mixes and compilations in my collection, but I had no idea he was this versatile. Maybe I should have, what with his appearing on Versatile Records.

Yet despite getting playlisted by a wide range of DJs over the years, I:Cube never broke through to the rarefied French air acts like Daft Punk and AIR occupy. Mr. Chaix' project remained an underground darling, one that heady wax spinners expose to an unsuspecting audience at those 'perfect moments' in a set. Then someone in that audience will run up to the DJ, eyes alight with wonderment, inquiring, “Dude! What was that song? It was so funky and deep!” And the DJ will smile with a slight nod, knowing his job was done, and he could now comfortably return to his home planet. “Gastro Funk,” he replies. “Gastro Funk by I:Cube.” Then the punter will furiously tap through his smartphone options, voraciously searching online for that one jam he heard that night, saving it for a future playlist. It's a tale as old as time.

Adore has all that I've ever wanted in a French-pop, electro-dub, deep house record. The titular opener hits you with sweeping strings and groovy-chill Latin rhythms, La La La hits you with the swingin' funk and French soul, Le Dub and Tropiq go deeper down the dub lane, and Cash Conv. gets a little techy with I:Cube's deep house stylee. A bunch of nonsense happens for a few tracks, then we're right back into the deep house bliss of Deep Republic, Pooh Pah (it makes sense when you hear the 'lyrics'), and ultra-deep dub techno of Dans la Piece Vide (DeepChord approved, I'm sure).

Eh, that skipped over bit? It's nothing. No, it's nothing! Okay, it's something. What holds Adore back from being a nigh-perfect record, is what. Yeah, my opinion and all, but seriously, the noisy, abrasive stabs at loud club fodder always sound out of place compared to the proper-deep vibes the rest of Adore cultivates. Caca Carnival at least has a little pep to it when it's not indulging those farty noises, and Lak does bring things back to the deep electro, though its drifting out of key leaves a sour taste on my ears. These tracks don't break the album, but sadly blemish it enough such that I honestly don't return to Adore as often as I'd like. Ah well, at least it lets me savour the rest all that much more when I do return.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Pet Shop Boys - Actually

Parlaphone: 1987

Is this the Pet Shop Boys album you're really supposed to have, even if you're not a Pet Shop Boys fan? It's certainly among their most popular, their highest charting effort of the '80s, only 1993's Very doing better. Huh, considering most things associated with the '80s was in decline by then, I wonder how Very did so well? Investigations for another time, but as I've known more songs off Actually (and Please) than Very, that does seem strange indeed. No, remixes on the crummy Disco 2 don't count as knowing songs off Very.

This one though, this album cemented Pet Shop Boys as bona-fide synth-pop stars, proving their first album was no fluke of catchy tunes and clever lyrics. It undoubtedly helped they had good ol' Thatcherism to play off of, subtly digging at the conservative consumerism that marked '80s Britain. To culturally thick individuals (y'know, Patrick Bateman sorts), a song like Shopping could easily come off as a joyful ode to decadent buying for things we don't really need. In the hands of Pet Shop Boys though, there's sly cynicism lurking behind those ear-wormy hooks and digital enhanced vocals. It wouldn't take much to strip the soul a little further for Shopping to sound like a track off Kraftwerk's Computer World.

Of course, the tune everyone remembers from Actually is It's A Sin, possibly one of the biggest club anthems Pet Shop Boys ever produced. Like, it already goes full-tilt with the bombastic string arrangements, soaring synths, and galloping hi-nrg rhythms, but those lyrics, mang! Even taking them at face value, it's a wonderful ode to self-doubt and reflection against the institutions of old, something anyone with a little rebelliousness in their nature can relate to. And while I'm sure Neil Tennant didn't write It's A Sin specifically with gay culture in mind, the fact the lyrics are rather autobiographical does give it an extra layer of meaning and understanding for those in that community. Just imagine the cathartic jubilation of dancing to this in a gay club back when. Heck, I'm sure it's still just as effective in this day and age.

There are plenty other good tunes on Actually, though only opener One More Chance hits that same high as It's A Sin (oh hi, Bobby O). What Have I Done To Deserve This? was a big deal due to giving Dusty Springfield some extra shine on her career, though I find that one treading a tad too close to Stock, Aitken & Waterman territory (those guys were everywhere at that point though). Hit Music joins Shopping in cutting on pop culture, Rent and I Want To Wake Up get into those doubting, conflicting urban lifestyles, while Heart and King's Cross tackle more traditional relationship matters. There's also a big, orchestral ballad in It Couldn't Happen Here, which sounds odd surrounded by all the synth-pop tunes. If you got Ennio Morricone on hand for a song, however, you don't waste that chance, nosiree!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

ACE TRACKS: November 2018

As I accumulate more and more music, certain trends start appearing, like preferred genres or running themes among cover art (so many pictures of Saturn). One thing I hadn't counted, however, was having far more items of certain years compared to others. 1995 in particular has remained top dog for as long as I've noticed this trend, although the years 2015 and 2007 are often nipping at its heels. By comparison, 2005 has been abysmal for my CD collection, the only competitors being its neighbouring years of 2004 and 2006. That is, if you don't include anything prior to 1993, the year I started buying my own music, and when electronic music really started taking off in my far flung corner of the world. Maybe if I go on a binge of hair metal or protest folk, my stacks of older decades will start looking more buff, but that'd dilute the electronic purity I've cultivated all these years.

Anyhow, I've mentioned this curiosity many times before, and I just assumed it being a case of the mid-'90s being awesome for electronic music, the mid-'00s being shite for electronic music, and the mid-'10s being resurgently awesome for electronic music. In simpler language, there was more dope music in 1995 than any other time, or at least that which I've consistently gone back to. I've posited this theory on the TranceAddict forums, and it seems I'm not alone in noticing this, some there realizing their Discoggian 'Want List' is rather slight for 2005 and its compatriots. Hell, the only reason I figure 2007 is so beefy in my archives is due to the all the reviews I was writing for TranceCritic around that time.

Does anyone else notice this within their own music collections, certain years being heavy favorites over others? Like, I assume this is only something folks with 500+ items spanning a few decades would at all, but I am curious nonetheless. Food for thought while y'all check out the ACE TRACKS for this past November.

Full track list here.

Supercar - Futurama
Alien Project - Activation Portal

Percentage Of Hip-Hop: 0%
Percentage Of Rock: 8%
Most “WTF?” Track: Guess the Ab Fab single, for its mere existence.

Wow, this one turned out remarkably well! It's almost a proper playlist, and not just some arbitrary arrangement of select tunes I was listening to these past thirty days. I didn't even notice how similar Rapoon's The Same River Once and Sven Vath's Ritual Of Life were until being alphabetically paired together like that. And there's quite a few sections like that here. While I mostly make these things for my own use, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one to anyone who's curious about a sampling of the sort of music I generally cover here. Yes, even the music I was requested to review!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Alien Project - Activation Portal (Original TC Review)

H2O Records: 2007

(2018 Update:
Probably more acerbic than necessary, but eh, that's just how you did things back in the '00s. If something was dodgy, crummy, sketchy, awful, and poo, you didn't hold back the hyperbole one iota, lest readers/viewers mistakenly think there was a glimmer of good in the product. These days, it's better doing harsh criticisms with thoughtful approaches, nuanced deconstructions, and long-form video essays talking into a microphone really fast. Still, there's something to be said for the cathartic release of what we have below.

I joked about 'banishing' Alien Project to the bowel's of TranceCritic's archives, but I wonder if he somehow
did wind up there. This was Ari Linker last album under the moniker, shortly after rekindling his partnership with Ido Liran for their Save The Robot project. That lasted a little longer, shooting straight for commercial appeal, even to the point regular eurotrance jocks like Ferry Corsten and Richard Durand were rinsing their tunes. Don't know what he's been up to this past half-decade, but for all intents, it looks like Alien Project is totally dead. Surely my words didn't kill it...?)

IN BRIEF: Familiarity breeds contempt.

What the...? No... You’ve got to be fucking kidding me! Did he really think he could get away with it? This is so blatantly obvious, even a complete trance rookie would see through this hack. What a fucking gimp.

Eh? Oh, hi there, fellow readers. Whatever am I blathering on about? Allow me to introduce you to Exhibit A: N R G by Alien Project. You may know this track by its more familiar title of Café del Mar. Yes, that’s right folks: N R G is essentially Café del Mar (Alien Project Remix). But instead of giving proper credit to the source material, Alien Project changed a note or two and gave it his own ‘original’ title, thus negating the need to pay royalties. Vanilla Ice would be proud.

Apparently, this is only the tip of the dodgy iceberg when it comes to Ari Linker. Talk to anyone in the psy scene about him, and you’ll be met with a level of scorn usually reserved for the likes of DJ Sammy and Scooter in other circles. However, many dedicated goa-heads are rather anal when it comes to maintaining their scene’s underground cred, and anything with a whiff of commercial intent is often unjustly derided. Just because something has popular appeal doesn’t automatically make it bad, so I gave Activation Portal a spin to hear if the buckets of bile were with merit.

Indeed they are.

Ignoring for the moment his shameful pillage of recognizable trance tunes (and Café del Mar isn’t the only occurrence), this is a very bland collection of psy. Ari seems incapable of making his arrangements work. The rhythms are typical full-on drive but very little of his synths in support give them life. Most of his hooks are the same ol’ tired Israeli clichés. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been done before and better.

Most of his original tracks often start with a hint of promise. Super Buster has some nice leads; Activation Portal’s supporting trancey hooks are effective; Yellow Blaze teases with ace opening rhythms. Nothing of note ever comes of it though, as Ari continuously falls back on go-nowhere wibble supplemented with DOA tweaks. If psy is meant to trip you out, this is the equivalent of drinking cough syrup for a high.

There are some moments worth your attention but I’m hardly giving Ari credit for them. Tweaky, for instance, has a decent enough peak, but this is originally an Astrix track, so that was probably his work there. Groovy’s buttrock guitars are passable, but this was a collaboration with Raja Ram, so who knows how much his influence helped guide the track (and the ‘tee-hee, snicker’ use of the Cannibus Culture dialogue from Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas is juvenile idiocy). And Aztechno Dream is an agreeable if uneventful slice of simple trance, but this is a remix by Shanti, whom likely stripped out the original's bunk.

The shame of it all is just how good the production is. I’ve seldom heard all these stock psy synths sound better, and when the rhythms do drive, it’s with just as much punch as the stuff coming from Discover Records. It’s even enough to be forgiving of how achingly average most of the stuff on here is.

But no. We mustn’t forget our initial reasons for hatred. Ripping off Café del Mar is bad enough, yet Ari trumps that by doing the same thing with As The Rush Comes! Yes, that is the Motorcycle song you’re hearing in Deeper, and yes, that is Jes’ voice. The breakdown/build is practically a direct lift, with Ari throwing in useless effects to hide it. Does Ms. Brieden even realize she’s now singing for bland Israeli psy? I'm not so much irate over using the song itself (t’was quaint, but overplayed); it’s Ari’s utter insult to our intelligence that we wouldn’t notice it that gets my goat.

If you wanted to do a remix of the originals, fine. Contact the producers to request a remix project from them. If you wanted to cover it, fine. At least have the decency to call it by the same name since everyone will recognize them as such. Instead, both N R G and Deeper have all the hallmarks of a producer looking to capitalize on weak rehashes all the while hoping his audience is so clueless, they’ll think he made these melodies himself. Mr. Linker would have a promising future being the ghost producer of a This Is... Psy compilation from Beechwood Music.

These are disgraceful antics, my friends. I simply have no choice in this matter. I hereby banish thee, Alien Project, to the bowels of our review archives, to sit alongside the likes of Scooter and Cascada. May the scouse house brigade have mercy on your soul.

Oh, for additional unintentional hilarity, seek out the promo spiel for Activation Portal. Here’s a sample:

”Are you prepared to step up to the plate, into the Portal, and onto the next level of light on your path to enlightenment and joy??Are you willing to move towards a higher destination where peace and goodwill reside continuously, where love dwells eternally and where all things are, indeed, possible???

Well then, friends, compadres, amigos - step up, right this way........the Activation Portal is now open and all Galactic travelers and music lovers alike are invited to come forth and experience, even embrace, if you will, ever new and unfolding infinite dimensions of cosmic consciousness, hitherto unavailable to humanity at large, but now easily reachable by all, through the timeless, enduring and commanding medium of sound, which is, by the way, the Governor of all Existence!”

Can you believe there's three-hundred more words of the nonsense?

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! 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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. Dub Corp L.S.G. L'usine Lab 4 Ladytron LaFace Records Lafleche Lamb Lange Large Records Lars Leonhard Laserlight Digital LateNightTales Latin Laurent Garnier LCD Soundsystem Le Moors Leama and Moor Lee 'Scratch' Perry Lee Burridge Lee Norris Leftfield Legacy Legiac Legowelt Leon Bolier Les Disques Du Crépuscule LFO Linear Labs Lingua Lustra liquid funk Liquid Sound Design Liquid Stranger Liquid Zen Live live album LL Cool J Loco Dice Lodsb London acid crew London Classics London Elektricity London Records 90 Ltd London-Sire Records Loop Guru Loreena McKennitt Lorenzo Masotto Lorenzo Montanà Lost Language Lotek Records Loud Records Louderbach Loverboy Luaka Bop Luciano Luke Slater Lustmord M_nus M.A.N.D.Y. M.I.K.E. 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