Saturday, August 31, 2019

Josh Christie - Stuck On A Space Trip

self release: 2018

So this Josh Christie chap approaches me on Twitter, as the platform is want to allow, and asks me if I'd be interested in reviewing one of his albums. Sure, thinks I, I'm always down for taking in extra tuneage for my queue. Send it my way and, oh, it's only available Bandcamp. Well, I'm not so anal on digital-only releases anymore, though this does put me in a slight pickle. Not so much a 'hey, can you review a copy of my album that I send you?' request, as 'hey, can you review my album after you buy it on Bandcamp?' Seems highly irregular for this sort of thing, but eh, I've paid money for lesser works. Besides, if I cannot keep my word, then what word I offer is any good? No, if I say I'm gonna' do something, whether it's reviewing someone's music or seeing a guide to completion, then by g'ar, I'll do it, no matter how long it takes, no matter the cost.

Don't bother looking for this Josh Christie within Lord Discogs' massive tome of data. A search there instead brings up acts like Christie Front Drive ('90s indie rock) and Josh Groban (modern day crooner). Naturally, the album I decided upon reviewing, Stuck On A Space Trip, is also a total blank, though when I typed up “Josh Christie Stuck On A”, the lone result I got was ...Insane Clown Posse's third album Riddle Box? Uh, well, they both have a stark black background with a green icon on the front. I suppose I could just ask the Tampa chap other details, but judging from the music on this album, it's pretty clear where his inspirations lay.

Space is definitely the place, but so are the British raves of the early '90s, with loving homages to the primitive dance beats and cheeky sci-fi sampling ever so prevalent of the era. In fact, Stuck On A Space Trip almost feels too lovingly replicant of that music, and I'm not just talking about opening things up with the sounds of a train taking off. From more obvious nods to The Orb (Dawn Of Emptiness, Sunny Vibrations), The KLF (The Autocratic Machine), and Shut Up And Dance (Chemical Weapons), to a general vibe not too dissimilar to Orbital and Earthbeat (aka: FSOL's early works) permeate much of the album. And I'm not sure if this is a good or a bad thing.

Yeah, I like me some vintage UK acid house sounds, but where does homage end and blatant lift begin? These sound so much of that time, you could probably convince clueless folks they were unearthed artifacts. It's like, if bleep-acid-ambient-techno-rave could become a synthwave-styled genre – music not only inspired by an era, but highly romanticized into something it never actually was - then this is probably what it would sound like. Why doesn't that happened more often, I wonder? UK acid raves too narrow a cultural niche compared to the omnipresence of The '80s?

Friday, August 30, 2019

Anduin - Stolen Years

SMTG Limited: 2012

When I saw this in an online shop, I knew I had to get it sight-unheard. That cardboard border, the artful picture, the unrecognizable musician with post-rock ties... it must be a new Slaapwel Records release! Never mind the label's only released one (1) new item in the two years I first discovered them.

But nay, 'tis not an unearthed Slaapwel Records album. That there's a whopping eight tracks is proof alone, much less the fact they all average around four to six minutes in length. It is an interesting item I've stumbled upon though, and once again I have nothing but my over-eager, hunter-gatherer purchasing instinct to thank for it. Seldom have I been led astray by such impulsive actions, and it was nice of Anduin to keep the faith alive a little longer.

Not to be confused with the Matthew Dear project Audion – because I know your brain has been doing that from the moment you saw the header – Anduin is the brainchild of Jonathan Lee, a chap who's floated about various rock bands these past couple decades. Some were punk, some were post, and some were whatever eclectic ideas were flowing freely in a given jam session. This naturally led Mr. Lee to explore the instrumental, abstract side of his muse, giving rise to Anduin, a project that lasted about half a decade, seemingly mothballed since 2015. Stolen Years was the last full-length record released under the guise.

With absolutely no idea of what to expect going in, I wasn't even sure I'd ended up with a 'music' record as Behind The Voyeur's Wall Of Glass started. So quiet, so subdued, and are those sounds of children playing coming from the track, or the park across from my apartment? Also, someone get WD-40 on that squeaky door stat, why don't ya'? A moody synth tone burbles in and out, a kick that sounds like someone bouncing a basketball emerges, and a lonely saxophone jam adds a creaky blues vibe. It's all rather bleak, but in a melancholic sort of way, like reflecting on one's decrepit life from the confines of a weathered, abandoned flat.

Much of Stolen Years plays out like that: prominent looping field recordings placing you within a vivid setting (so much dirt and grit), sinewy synth pads crafting lonesome moods and tones, and collaborator Jimmy Graphery providing saxophone or flute solos adding human soul to the proceedings. Only final track Irene breaks the mould, shooting for an opulent wall-of-sound ambient outing for closure.

What I find so interesting about Stolen Years is despite the rather simple elements in play, it's extremely difficult pinpointing exactly what kind of music this is. The closest comparison I can come up with is the dark ambient jazz of Phonothek, but not so oppressive and bleak as that duo goes. Stolen Years feels much too intimate to be dark ambient, yet not so lost up its rectum to be jazz. A curious, addictive one, this.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Steven Rutter & John Shima - Step Into The Light

FireScope: 2018

Jason McCreadie has already been responsible for some of the pulpier pieces of cover art in FireScope's catalogue, but he done taken the cake here, my friends. Anime fairy girls, in my retro ambient bleep techno? Why I never, could ever, make clever, said Trevor, in this endeavour, forever.

Sorry, I think my mind went and a'sploded again. It simply cannot comprehend what it is seeing here. Like, what even is going on? Some sort of alien invasion? A battle between heaven and hell? A weird interpretation of what happens when our blood trades carbon dioxide for oxygen within our lungs? I mean, those big red pods could be red blood cells, which would make, the fairies, what? Hormonal chemicals? Bodily defences? What's even crazier is this art is in fact double-sided, carrying over to the flip of the package. Naturally, the anime fairy girl there has white hair and wings, because gotta' have those contrasts.

Step Into The Light marked another step in FireScope's expanding, erm, scope, in that it was the first collaborative outing among its roster of producers. Because even if the classic B12 line-up is no more, that doesn't mean Mr. Rutter couldn't team up with all these cats clearly inspired by the music he and Golding were making so many years past. Thus it's only appropriate that the first of these pairings would include John Shima, the first outside the B12 wheel-house to make his mark on the label. Broken Spell opens things up with that distinct crisp electro rhythm and mellow melody many a FireScope EP features, eventually giving shine to a light plucky lead that reminds me of ancient Alter Ego. Skywards does the deeper business, mostly letting the rhythms do the work with subdued backing synth pads lending an ominous tone to the track. A New Day is more of a straight-forward ambient techno tune with vintage bleep action, while Disjointed Route slows things down to a groovier pace with a bell-tone bassline that has my Biosphere sensors triggered. How all this relates to anime fairy girls tripping the light fantastic has me though.

Sorry, I know I shouldn't keep coming back to it, but this cover art fascinates me. It's just not something you'd ever see in techno, no matter which vein you follow in that scene. The cartooniest it ever got was with its nods to pulp sci-fi, and that was quickly jettisoned when it was declared techno, in all its forms, must remain Serious Business. Heck, even Ken Ishii only flirted with anime once, and had it been anyone other than Koji Morimoto doing the art, probably wouldn't have happened. Meanwhile, the 'loligirl' look was soon adopted by happy hardcore and other infantile music scenes, removing the style completely and utterly from techno's domain forever after.

Not that I wouldn't mind seeing more of this art in techno, that scene's iconography too often staid and monochrome. It needs more primary colours and light, but I guess it's just not good for business.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Daniel Pemberton - Space Dive

fsoldigital.com: 2012

I should have expected this, but for some reason, upon seeing the cover art, an alternate version of Space Dive lodged itself into my brain, leading me to believe that was what I was gonna' hear. One of pure conceptual space-age ambient noodling, like AstroPilot's Solar Walk series, filled with actual radio chatter samples between Felix Baumgartner and Red Bull ground control. That it came out on The Future Sound Of London's digital label, the last place I'd expect to find a National Geographic documentary soundtrack, is my only excuse for coming to such a premature conclusion. How did this end up on fsoldigital anyhow?

Easy answer, that. Daniel Pemberton often works with Brian Dougans and Garry Cobain, especially contributing to their Environments series. I'm not sure how far back their collaborations officially goes – at least The Isness - but it's possible Daniel was hanging around the FSOL boys since even the Dead Cities period. Thus, it makes sense they'd let him use their label for releases slightly outside traditional chains. Oh, and Pemberton made his (teenaged!) debut on Fax +49-69/450464, which means that, yes, he too was included in the inimitable, ineluctable Die Welt Ist Klang Pete Namlook tribute box-set. Just throwing that out there.

But yes, Daniel's career arc this century has primarily been in the realm of score work, starting out doing TV spots and documentaries before getting the nod for major movies. What movies, you ask? Oh, just a little critical darling called Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, to name one. Also, um, King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword. Still, a resume that includes Steve Jobs and Ocean's 8 ain't too shabby. Dude knows his way around providing audio stimuli for visual entertainment, is what I'm saying.

And I can only assume his work for Space Dive is exemplary of a one hour documentary covering Felix's freefall from the outer reaches of our atmosphere because, um, I haven't seen it. I tried to find it, but it's not on Amazon Prime (.ca), not on YouTube, and I don't really care enough about it to drop paywall money to see it (sorry, Nat Geo). I'm sure it's like most modern documentaries anyway: a lot of dawdling and faux-tension building leading up to the main event, presented after seven commercial breaks. I remember the live stream just fine, thanks.

Musically, Space Dive sounds like most modern documentary scores as well, with the subdued orchestras and pounding percussion sections (he's Going Supersonic, yo'!), light synth touches, and such as. Little of it leaps out as distinct pieces of music, which is exactly what you should want in a soundtrack like this. I can say, despite having no visual accompaniment, a few pieces do a good job of making me feel connected to the emotions Felix must have been going through (Freefall, To The Edge Of Space, The Jump). I still can't recommend Space Dive for anyone other than Daniel Pemberton completists though. Surely there's a few out there.

The Gentle People - Soundtracks For Living

Rephlex: 1997

Acts like AIR, Groove Armada, and Röyksopp were highly instrumental in turning the chill-out scene into a radio-friendly commercial juggernaut, but did they really start it all? Okay, yes, but one group was making ultra-retro psychedelic lounge-pop just a smidge before those names broke out. The fact they came out on Rephlex, however, had everyone scratching their heads whether it was all a put-on. Like, really? The label that Aphex Twin started would release something like the Journey single? Hell, not just release it, but give it a remix too! Mr. D. James' rub on Journey must be among his most bizarre creations, in that it's just so... normal.

Answering the question of “What would happen if The Human League and The B-52s took LSD, Quaaludes, and time-travelled to the '60s?”, The Gentle People were an odd quartet even without the Rephlex bump. Whether or not their glassy-eyed gaze into retro psychedelia was a put on, they seemed so sincere that you couldn't help but fall sway to their pulpy charms. You wanted to indulge in their fondue parties while lounging about bubble chairs and shag drapery.

Theirs was musical escapism from a music scene already rather removed from modern norms. The only place left to go was where the establishment had already been, re-purposing it for their own use. Retro trends in a nutshell, really. Still, it boggles the mind that Rephlex would be the first to get hep to such a potential market, even if they never followed it up with musical acts of similar ilk. All others got signed to big Virgin money, probably.

So I've already mentioned Journey as it appeared in Ambient Ibiza, both the most obvious and least obvious sort of compilation The Gentle People to appear on (future Braindance collections from Rephlex too). The rest of Soundtracks For Living generally follows that dubby, trippy, lounge-pop vibe with various degrees of psychedelia. Some tracks use big orchestral swells to oversell the sentiments (World Of Love, Emotion Heater, Relaxation Central). Others get more intimate with mushy lyrics and jazzy solos (Laurie's Theme, Le Tunnel De L'Amour, Tiki Mix).

Then there are the tunes that almost remind you that Soundtracks For Living indeed does have raver roots, however tenuous they appear on the surface. Dream warps a hazy slice of dubby ambience through the lens of a '60s Euro-art flic. Travel Bug is so bassy and spacey and groovy you'd expect Kruder & Dorfmeister to show up on the swirly-coloured couches for a jam. Meanwhile, many of the final tracks aren't too sonically dissimilar to The Orb's antics, or if The KLF had been inspired by British mod fashions rather than American outbacks and Elvis.

Soundtracks For Living can appear shallow and hollow at first ear-glance, no doubt. Heck, I thought it would be going in. The more I listened though, the more I found sucked into a surprisingly deep, warm bowl of delicious fondue cheese. Laced with sunshine acid. The Journey video ain't no joke.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Ken Ishii - Sleeping Madness

R & S Records: 1999

Not the actual follow-up to Ken Ishii's breakout album Jelly Tones, but generally thought of as the spiritual successor. The between LP Metal Blue America is just a tad too rare and a tad too 'American' for most folks to bother with. What's rather sad is, for the longest time, I wasn't really aware of Sleeping Madness either. For sure I knew of Ishii, but by the time I started noticing his albums in local stores, we were already at Future In Light (aka: that one with the 3D model outline as cover art). Better distribution deals likely helped in that regard, as finding R & S Records releases in Canada was none too easy or cheap in the '90s, no matter how critically exceptional they were (I'm looking at you, SAW 86-92).

Of course, our modern times has left most of these nuisances nicely in the past, and catching up on Ken's work has been one of my long-gestating tasks, if not an exceptionally pressing one. Sleeping Madness is as good as any record to carry on with, showcasing his distinct take on Detroit techno by way of Neo-Tokyo, while also highlighting some of the broader developments the genre had started incorporating by the late '90s. Yes, I'm talking about that almost entirely forgotten trend techno couldn't help but indulge in: jazz.

Oh yeah, there's that jazz, man. Where Is The Dusk features busy drums, organ licks, and layered strings creating a bizarre discordant melody that fits snugly with the seemingly chaotic rhythms. If that wasn't jazzy enough, here's a collaboration with DJ Spooky (that subliminal kid), bringing his trippy hip-hop style to Enso Online - yeah, man, dig d'at cello bassline action, yo'! Missing Melody's title is apt, mostly a spazzy, swingin' rhythm workout that can't have at least been partially inspired by Squarepusher's antics; Game Over too, with Co-Fusion bringing a little more rocky feel to the party.

And golly gee, had Ken Ishii been feeling a bit of that tech-house bug that was creeping in the scene too? 24bit Optimist has a nice, bumpin' rhythm going for it that's not too hard and not too fast, though does morph into that classic Ishii techno stylee with the neon-kissed melodies reverberating off tall Shinjuku towers. Plus, I'd expect nothing less than a little tribal tech-house groove from a collab' with Talvin Singh in Water Dripping Down On The Middle Of The Forehead, no matter how many Japanese electro sounds Ken throws in there.

The rest of Sleeping Madness mostly features all the vintage Ishii techno you want and crave. Man, I don't know how to describe the sounds in Misprogrammed Day, but that beat thumps, and that sinewy hook coils itself around my cochlea like a... never mind. Really, this album offers enough familiar sounds while working in unique, creative indulgences for a little spicy variety. Yes, even a trip-hop secret song, because it's the late '90s, and everyone wants a spoonful of that Massive Attack gravy.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Kwook - Skywave

Blue Oasis: 2008

dataObscura began as a sister label to Databloem before branching off onto its own. Naturally, a label with such origins must produce offspring in a similar fashion, which resulted in Blue Oasis, a sister label to dataObscura. Sadly, this strange form of mitosis resulted in something of a stillborn, Blue Oasis managing but four releases before succumbing to inactivity. The first two were Anthony Kerby projects, because of course they were. A compilation called Perceived Distances also came out, but not before a third and final album under the print emerged, this here Skywave from Kwook. Still, one can find these items as dataObscura releases, rendering the original life of Blue Oasis but a mote of memory within Lord Discogs' archives.

Anyhow, Kwook. One Simon Bennett to the Perth partitioners (is that a thing?), he released his first album Unidentified Feathered Object with the early dataObscura, added a digital EP Immiscible to his catalogue, then finished off with Skywave before moving on to joining the Japanese band Wiggle (so sayeth Lord Discogs). Is... that really the same guy? There is a 'Simon' listed in the band's 'Members' blurb, but... really? Really?? There's a few more items on his Bandcamp though, so it must be so.

As is clear from the loving photo of a radio dish, Skywave is all about the love of those wonderful frequencies broadcast on the longer wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, especially those as utilized by humans. As expected, there's ample use of radio static fuzz throughout this album, but it doesn't dominate, mostly relegated to sonic textures and padding for whatever musical ideas Kwook's muse takes him. A very charming, playful place, turns out, many of these tracks sounding like they could have appeared as backing scores to some old-timey PBS documentary about radio waves. And I do mean old, clear influences from the '70s synth wizards on display (you know the namedrops).

Some pieces have a sense of awe about them (Stationary Waves, Aurora, Deep Space Receiver), some dance about like a chipper waltz (Heterodyne, Calling All Stations 2), while others cozy close to the domain of ambient techno (Sunspots, Signal To Noise, the latter entirely too short).

Then things get conceptually interesting, a three-part titular minimalist closer that explores some of the stranger sounds one might discover on some bandwidths. It rather reminds me of Gas 0095 in its singular fascination for the scientifically minute, with calming ambient melodies to match that focus. There's quite the glowing write-up in the liner notes about some of these things, among them recordings of “numbers stations”.

These strange transmissions have long been suspected to be cryptic codes for spy networks, some broadcasting instructions for agents no longer even in service. In fact, some may be automated hold-outs relaying numbers from cut-off bunkers without every catching up on modern times, like World War II Japanese soldiers stationed on lonesome islands. Yeah, probably not, but think of the alt-fiction, man!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Yamaoka & Purl - Simple Songs

Databloem: 2018

Far be it for me to get flustered over seeing certain artists flit between labels I figured would have little cross-pollination, but it's still weird to see a chap I discovered on Silent Season appear on Databloem. First it was Segue, and now Purl, both producers that helped cement in my mind the definitive dubby, trancey, techno-chill Silent Season stylee (ASC too). And while it's a sound that could fit with Databloem's rather liberal explorations on downtempo and ambient music, they still have generally different followers. You'll never see a glowing write-up of Databloem on Resident Advisor, nosiree.

Fortunately, such artists aren't so constrained by label loyalty that they don't mind dipping into other's pools on occasion. Ludvig Cimbrelius (Purl) has in fact done the deed many times over the course of his career, including such labels as... wait, didn't I already do the obligatory Label Namedrop when I reviewed Stillpoint? *checks* I didn't! Ah sweet! Ahem... Labels such as Sediment, Dewtone Recordings, Eternell, and Faint. Many of those releases included pairings with other producers such as Sinius, Deflektion, and Hivertribe. So teaming up with this Yamoaka isn't out of the ordinary for Purl. Still, I'll be flubber-flustered if he ends up pairing up with, say, a dark ambient producer, releasing an album on, say, a drone label. Wait a minute, my Bandcamp bell just rung, let me che- Son of a gun!!

Yamaoka is headed by Yoshinori Yamazaki (Kenichi Oka was once a member, so sayeth Lord Discogs). Yet another one of those tireless ambient producers churning out multiple rare albums on multiple obscure labels like October Man Recordings, Secret Station, Doppelganger, Carpe... Sonum... Records? Dear God, everything I know that is ambient is collapsing within itself!

Anyhow, Simple Songs. Two types of compositions make up this album. The first are the long, ambient dronescapes where minimalist looping passages and melodies are stretched out like ethereal embers across a picturesque skyline. Very lovely, very calming, very expected of another release out of Databloem. The other assortment contain more momentum to them, quicker in their loops such that they percolate into pseudo-rhythms. Add a kick drum underneath these, and you could easily have trance, or neo-trance, or whatever folks want to call this stuff. So of course Yam' n' Pur' do so (or close approximates of) in tracks like Spinning Grid, Simple Songs, and River Run. Ah, that's the Silent Season stuff I was looking for.

And I won't lie, though I've come across a fair bit of mint material from this Databloem splurge, Simple Songs has thus far taken the cake for me. Yeah, it's a small cheat in cribbing the same dreamy dubby vibes as has made Silent Season among my favourite prints as of late, combining two enjoyed styles into one awesome whole. This is what great electronic music does though: mix and merge into wonderfully fascinating new combinations. And a staid scene such as ambient could use more of such worlds colliding.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Ishkur's Guide To Electronic Music 3.0

I helped make a thing!
Ishkur's Guide To Electronic Music 3.0

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Speedy J - Ginger

Plus 8 Records: 1993

(a Patreon Request from Omskbird)

And with this, I've completed my collection of Warp Records' seminal Artificial Intelligence series. Except for the actual compilations titled Artificial Intelligence. Which includes the Speedy J track De-Orbit, not on this version of Ginger. Oh, and I'm also missing the albums from B12 and F.U.S.E., but those are kinda' outliers to the series anyway. Like, Electro-Soma was a compilation of prior EPs, while Dimension Intrusion is more regarded as a Plus 8 item than a Warp Records one.

So I guess I haven't completed my collection of Warp Records' seminal Artificial Intelligence series. Can we at least call it the best bluffer's guide without going whole hog? I already have the other albums released under the short-lived banner (Surfing On Sine Waves, Bytes, Incunabula), music released by artists who became Warp Records fixtures, making them the Most Important releases of the Artificial Intelligence series. The others are nice rounders, but aside from B12, not fully indicative of the proto-IDM sounds coming out of the U.K. at the time. Heck, one dude was from Canada, the other Dutch, both with their own labels to release their own music on.

It's the Canadian version of Ginger that I have in my hands, though the only real difference between it and the Warp Records one is a change in the final track, the Plus 8 Records exclusive Spikkels replacing the Artificial Intelligence exclusive De-Orbit. Aw, I actually like that tune, and I can't say Spikkels is up to snuff as a replacement, a rather standard downtempo electro outing from Mr. Paap that doesn't stand out much from what chill techno was doing at the time.

Honestly, that's my general impression of Ginger: a record that finds ol' Jochem still finding his way in the world of techno, yet to discover how Very Important his sound could be. There's tracks on here that show strong hints of his future unique takes on the genre, tunes like Basic Design, Flashback, and Pepper unafraid of throwing some mainland Europe euphoria into the staunch, serious techno the early IDM scene was known for. When he starts sounding like the other Artificial Intelligence cats, however, the further my interest drifts from Ginger. Sure, the titular cut, R2 D2, and Fill 14 are fine examples of bleepy U.K. techno trying to sound like Detroit techno, but it doesn't sound like Speedy J to me.

I think that's what held me back from really giving this album much of a chance when I heard it during Warp Records' first run of re-issues a decade ago. My expectations were so bloody high from albums like G Spot and Loudboxer that I couldn't help but be let down in hearing Jochem Paap in an earlier state of production ability. I know, I know, selfish excuses for not liking a record as much as I could, but aside from a select few tracks (see below for which!), I just don't see myself coming back to Ginger as often.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Galati - Silence [As A Din]

Databloem: 2018

I was already curious in checking out more items from Galati after Gletscher, though not in a real hurry to do so either – almost glacial, in my efforts (eh? eh...?). Plus, having the bulk of his music released by that label which has disappeared into the internet ether made digging back into ol' Roberto's discography a trickier endeavour than before. Fortunately, after a bit of downtime, he seems to have found a new home with the label that everyone seems to have found a new home with; or provide some additional content for. Seriously, what is it about Databloem that has everyone in the modern ambient techno/dub/chill scene wandering within their walls? Just because they have a proven, classy track record that's endured for well over a decade now doesn't mean one has to release with them. Sure must feel nice though, being part of a print that won't end up dicking you around.

Making his debut with Databloem is Galati's sixth album, Silence [As A Din], and even without the recollection of his earlier works, you just know I'd have picked this up regardless. I admit, I admit, certain types of cover art are pure catnip to my eyes, and placid ice flows in a blue-scale colour is about as catnippy as these things can get. Maybe add a derelict boat on one of those icebergs. A Saturn in the sky. Yeah, that's the stuff...

For those of us just joining in on the Galati train, Roberto's approach to the art of ambient drone typically involves post-rock elements such as guitar strums and amp feedback. The result on Gletscher was that of a rather epic wall-of-sound, and you'd think for an album titled Silence, he'd scale things back some. Yes, some, in that I can pick out individual elements with greater ease, but it's no less overbearing. The opener Pt. 1 doesn't waste time in bringing the coalescing sounds to the fore, though they do retreat some such that things like rhythm and melody have breathing room. At twenty minutes long, Pt. 1 moves through many passages itself, at times almost pausing to catch its breath before erupting in another wall-of-sound excursion. If I didn't know it was indexed as a singular piece, I'd have thought it was around four or five different tracks.

Pt. 3 goes even longer at twenty-five, and has something of a modern classical feel to it with prominent harp and vocal tones. Not that they weren't apparent in Pt. 1, I can just hear them better in this composition. There's honestly quite a bit going on in Pt. 3, more than I can detail in the remaining word count I have.

So let me wrap up by mentioning Pt. 2 and Pt. 4 are comparatively shorter pure drone pieces, almost inching towards dark ambient's ethereal domain, placing Silence [As A Din] among the moodiest albums I've heard from Databloem yet. Can't fault the label for dipping their fingers into a bit of everything.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Raekwon - Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang

Ice H2o Records: 2011

Sometime last year, I stumbled upon a YouTube video where Raekwon was tasked with ranking all of his albums. What a wonderful concept, thinks I! Sure, you could argue an artist will unequivocally praise everything they release, but if put to the grinder with some proper self-critical honesty, surely some interesting results may come about. Like, how would someone like Neil Young, with his extensive discography, rank his albums? Even he's admitted when some records don't turn out as well as hoped though, so what about a producer who only knows how to blow smoke up their own ass? You know, the Armins and Tiestos of the world.

Anyhow, Raekwon's self-summary didn't reveal that many surprises (even he thinks Immobilarity was a disappointment), but it did clue me into a bunch of his records I had totally forgotten. Yes, even with all the entries at Lord Discogs. Too many mixtapes among the official albums, see, making me wonder what is what and all that rot. His ranking video at least parred things some, with this particular Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang coming in high near the top of his picks (nothing was gonna' dethrone Only Built For Cuban Linx).

I do recall seeing some stuff about this album, but figured it just another in an endless stream of mixtapes the Chef was cooking up around the time. Rather, this was his attempt to bring the classic, gritty Wu-Tang street style back to the fore', as he believed RZA had led the group too far astray with his musical indulgences. Bold moves, but at some point even the disciples must challenge The Abbot, and with the blessings of RZA's many producing proteges (Alchemist, Mathematics, Bronze Nazareth) plus seasoned vets of hip-hop (Erick Sermon, Scram Jones, DJ Khalil, many others...), this looked to be a dope round of vintage Wu bangers indeed.

And the titular opener starts with those classic chop-sockey samples setting the theme, then urgent strings with thumping beats hit as Rae's flow is focused and commanding. Why does it sound like he's skipping a word or two like he's catching his breath though? It continues into Every Soldier In The Hood, and when Method Man's verse comes in with a third of the words snuffed out, a cold realization hits me: I've ended up with a busted-ass 'clean' version of this album! Bloody Hell, no wonder it was so cheap on Amazon.

Well, that's a bummer. How can I enjoy an album with so many missing lyrics? Why make such a version? Seriously, who's gonna' buy any edited version of a slummy hip-hop album, especially one with hardly a hope of crossover appeal? At least there's an uncensored Spotify option, but man, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang had no hope of making a solid first impression upon me because of this. Even more damning is, as a long time Wu-Tang fan, there's a lot to like here, but my CD copy will never get another spin. Denied a proper play-through on my proper sound-system, forever.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Dead Coast - Shambolic

Annibale Records: 2016

It honestly could have remained a singular compilation indulgence. A specific genre itch that was tied to a specific period of time, and needn't be explored any further. Maybe I'd have gotten myself a Dick Dale collection as well, but surf rock wasn't something in need of diving fully and completely into. Much less wade through the vast, murky shores of indie rock seeking any contemporary bands carrying the music's legacy into the modern era, because there always are a few who find inspiration in super-niche styles of a bygone time. It's just what indie rock do, mang!

Fortunately, and remarkably coincidentally, I stumbled upon a Bandcamp newsletter highlighting all the contemporary bands carrying the music's legacy into the modern era. Like, almost instantly after I'd picked up that Surf Beat compilation. The only explanation for this astounding timing is the sweet Sirens of surf rock heard my longing wail across the Pacific shores, sending me a serenading screed whence I needed it most. Yeah, that tracks.

Thus here I am (rocking you like a hurricane?), reviewing the debut album from Dead Coast, a band out of London that clearly has its ears turned to the early '60s of the California coast. And not only am I reviewing their debut album, but I'm going with the digital copy, because all the hard copy versions were already sold out, but I wasn't gonna' deny myself some fresh musical exploration based on outdated conditionals.

And no, this isn't an all-in surf outing, just as much a 'Merseybeat' and psychedelic rock showing too (Lord Discogs also lists Garage Rock, Blues Rock, Stoner Rock, and Space Rock among the genres Shambolic entails, but what does Discogs know?). The most surfy of the songs on here are probably Ask The Dust, Hills Made Of Sand, Good In Her Blues, and Because I Know You. Mmm, such lush, dreamy reverb, bringing to mind lazy hazy days swaying by sunny shores under palm trees, salty waves lapping at your feet and all that good summer stuff. Plus, can't knock that authentic lo-fi recording quality, as though ripped from the sixty year old, 7” records.

That's only four songs out of a tracklist of thirteen. If the surf-inspired tunes don't cut it for you, you can always vibe on the garage-beat outings like Jenny Loves The Sun, Why Are We Still Together, and Just Don't Give Yourself (ooh, getting a White Stripes feeling off that one). Then there are the weirdo tunes, like ESP that's got that blues thing going, but features a Theremin (or approximate) solo. Or Overcome, an instrumental psychedelic freak-out that pauses at points for some slow jam time in a Tiki lounge (oh hi, Khruangbin, fancy seeing you here); Bossa For Stanley would fit in that lounge too.

So overall, a good first outing in this strange yet familiar musical realm I'm treading out into. I mean, it ought to have been, what with this album coming recommended by Bandcamp and all.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Castroe - Serum

Werkstatt Recordings: 2015

Man, you just knew there was another Werkstatt release lurking about somewhere. You think you get them all, have sifted through every pile, every tower, every folder, but somehow, something slips through the cracks, waiting to pop up when the next round of regular backlog rears its head (somewho, somewhat!). Thing is I kinda' recall listening to this in that last massive run, but it's difficult keeping track of every four-song synthwave EP, especially when you're feeling a touch of the ol' genre burn-out.

I honestly have no idea how some DJs can listen to twenty times the amount of records in a single sitting of just tech-house or minimal techno and have even a fraction of it stick in their minds for future consideration. Like, I can take hefty quantities of some genres, but when you keep hearing the same tricks and tropes played out over and over and over, it doesn't take long for it all to turn to mush in my noggin'. And for as much as I do enjoy synthwave, its tricks and tropes become blatantly obvious in short order indeed. It's one of those fine chocolate genres out there, so succulent, sweet, and tasty when you first consume it, but best indulged for special occasions. Or maybe it's the Turtles/Creme Egg of electronic music, so easy to overdose on when you've been absent of it for a while.

I know I'm willing to take another hefty dive into the genre again (beyond Werkstatt) after hearing just this lone EP. That chugging bassline in opener Nightcrawler, with the flowing backing pads, sparkly synth fills, and chipper arp keeping things moving along... *chef's kiss*, everything I hope to hear in a synthwave tune. And since I haven't listened to much synthwave in this past month, it sounds nice and fresh again, like glistening iceberg lettuce at the supermarket. A good supermarket, not one of those cheap, nickel-and-dime places where the produce arrives wilted.

Coagulator provides the obligatory 'outrun' tune. Intimidate slows things down, and even throws in a charming reverb fade for a small breakdown. Finally, the tituluar closer almost sounds like it needs a vocalist singing about loves lost on the Ocean Drive, in spa-a-ace! Is it just me, or does anyone else get a Starman vibe on this? Seems like a surprisingly untapped Carpenter-'80s thing synthwave has yet to fully exploit. It doesn't have to all be Escape From New York, Miami Vice, and Big Trouble In Little China, y'know.

As is so often the case with this scene though, Castroe (Eduardo Castro to the Austin music clubs) doesn't have much else to his name. Lord Discogs lists another EP released this past year Less Than Zero on Lazerdiscs Records, plus a smattering of Bandcamp offerings before his Werkstatt outing. It's such a shame when I find a synthwaver with panache but lacking in plenty o' consumable goods. Given the ridiculously high turn-over rate of producers, they seem so few and far between.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

ACE TRACKS: July 2019

You know what I miss? Naps. Don't get me wrong, the way my current work schedule has turned out is rather nice overall, becoming part of the 9-5 demographic without any of the headaches it seems to create. Getting home at such a time, however, means if I lay down, it's certainly lights out until the middle of the night, from which I'll be up way too long in the pre-dawn hours. What am I gonna' do in that time, go for a swim at the local pool with the elderly? (hhmmm...) My old 6-2 workshift was perfect for catching an early evening snooze without worry about oversleeping.

Does this mean I'm destined for another burnout all too soon? Or should I sneak some naptime while I'm at work? Like, I probably could get away with it, me being my own boss with a serious downswing of activity towards the end of my shift. No one has to know I'm sleeping on company time, not even the ones who somehow stumble upon this blog. Mwahaha!! Ah, hm, here's some ACE TRACKS from July anyway.


Full track list here


MISSING ALBUMS:
DJ 3000 - Sälis
Dr. Atmo - Quiet Life
Cosmic Replicant - Processes
Subotika - Panonija
Opium - Pain(t)
Pleq - Our Words Are Frozen

Percentage Of Hip-Hop: 0%
Percentage Of Rock: 14%
Most “WTF?” Track: The dark ambient stuff. Far too aggro for all the chill vibes on this playlist. Yes, even dubstep and Billy Idol are comparatively chill to SantAAgostino.

Not as ambient as it could have been, what with so many albums missing from this playlist, but it still sounds rather singular throughout. Or at least, having large chunks devoted so certain genres/artists rather than a mix of everything. Surprised by the weak Spotify game this time out. Maybe it's time to look into Deezer?

Things I've Talked About

...txt 10 Records 16 Bit Lolita's 1963 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2 Play Records 2 Unlimited 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 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&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 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 Audion AuroraX Autechre Autistici Autumn Of Communion Avantgarde Aveparthe Avicii Axiom Axs Axtone Records Aythar B.G. 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