Tag Archive: ambient


This is Part One in a series of posts rounding up my favourite releases of the last three months and writing about them. Part Two will be published next Saturday.

Yak – “Pursuit of Momentary Happiness”

An early contender for Album of the Year comes from this English psychedelic rock band. Yak don’t just recycle the psychedelic (colour projector) wheel this is an album of well produced punchy and catchy songs that don’t out stay there welcome while still having the depth of albums with much longer cuts. Even when they do go long such as on album closer ‘This House Has No Living Room’ (which features J.Spaceman aka Jason Pierce of Spiritualized and Spacemen 3 fame) the song is so good (not to mention a perfect album closer) that you don’t notice the track length. A highly recommended album from a band very much on the up.

 

Cotonete – “Super-vilains”

I first discovered Cotonete when they popped up on a Spotify Release Radar playlist towards the end of last year. I instantly liked this French Funk band, in fact, Spotify is pretty good at finding me groovy music from the other side of the English Channel. I suspect this goes back to all the mid 70s Serge Gainsbourg albums I’ve listened in the last four years!!! Cotonete are influenced by The JB’s (James Brown’s famous late 60’s backing band), Headhunters era Herbie Hancock and Brazilian acts such as Deodato and Banda Black Rio. It’s a potent and funky cocktail with deep basslines, punchy horns, cutting rhythm guitar and a truckload of percussion atop top notch drummer David Georgelet. This is music that is at home on the dancefloor as it would soundtrack the car chase in The French Connection or when the tempo drops it’s perfect music to chill out to. I can’t recommend this album enough and I think it will be one of those under the radar gems that gets overlooked. Don’t sleep on it!!!

 

Malibu Ken – “Malibu Ken”

Ok, so when this album was first announced late last year my initial reaction was 1) What? This is seems like a strange collaboration (Malibu Ken is a collaboration between Underground Hip-Hop MC/Producer Aesop Rock and Psychedelic Electro Hip-Hop Producer and founder of Black Moth Super Rainbow Tobacco). 2) If it works it’s could be awesome. Then I heard the first single ‘Acid King’ and watched it’s accompanying video I was excited about the potential for the album. A couple of months later the album dropped I wasn’t disappointed the album is a fantastic blend of Electro Hip-Hop and Funk tunes with Aesop Rock bring his own verbose lyrical content and amazing flow that have become his trademark since his enter to the music world with his debut album ‘Float’ in the year 2000. This album is in and out in thirty five minutes but you don’t any more music as it’s a wholly satisfying album. If this is the only Malibu Ken album that they’ll have a 100% knockout for us all to love for years to come. If Aesop and Tobacco continue to collaborate and create albums of this quality then we’ll be incredibly lucky. What are you waiting for check it out!!!

 

Cosey Fanni Tutti – “Tutti”

Cosey Fanni Tutti has been a member of not one but two great Electronic music acts first of all she was a member of Industrial music pioneers Throbbing Gristle (1975-2012) and then her a partner Chris Carter (also a member of Throbbing Gristle) formed Chris & Cosey (1981-) and pursued a soft Electro/Techno direction. On her second solo album she digs deep into dark Electro/Techno territory but with a couple of surprises. The first surprise is that while you can dance to some of the tracks on this album a majority are slower and feature thicker heavier sounds. This wasn’t what I was expecting after hearing the title track on Spotify. However, this is no negative as Tutti expertly creates these atmospheric and engaging tracks. The other surprise was the use of a Cornet as the lead instrument of the title track Tutti has played violin in the past at early Throbbing Gristle shows but as far as I’m aware the Cornet is a new instrument to her. I definitely think the Cornet adds something to the title track both adding a more human feel and more dissonance. If you like Electronic music you’ll get a lot of “Tutti” it covers Electro/Techno and Ambient music across it’s tightly packed 38 minutes and doesn’t waste a single moment. It’s the sound of veteran showing she still has plenty to offer even in an ever changing world.

Octo Octa – “For Lovers” EP

This EP opens with ‘I Need You’ the most blissful ten minutes of music that I’ve heard so far this year. It’s envelopes you in it’s vocals moans and multi layered synths pads, it’s warm and welcoming and will always put a smile on your face on matter what else is going on or has gone on. Second track ‘Bodies Meld Together’ goes back to the 90’s for a breakbeat techno beat making for a hard beat but no less harmonious and luxurious synth layers and it’s a contrast that really works. The EP is rounded out by ‘Loops For Healing’ which a lilting melody with deep House chords and bass drum throb. Overall this is an EP that works thematically but each track stands alone as it’s own piece quite an achievement. Highly recommended.

 

Kokoroko – ‘Kokoroko’ EP

This is London 8 piece Jazz/Funk/Afrobeat band Kokoroko’s debut release though the band has been playing gigs together for a number of years now. You really should watch their set for The Boiler Room, I’ll embed it at the bottom of this post. The EP kicks off with ‘Adwa’ it’s funky Afrobeat shuffle and with bands every powerful horns taking the lead on this track. There is a break down for a guitar solo and then builds back into a sax solo before returning to the main horn refrain. The goes more down tempo and softer with their playing on the ‘Ti-de’ it’s a thoughtful track but never ponderous and the instruments have equal billing. There are even some nice female vocal harmonies towards the end of the track. ‘Uman’ is up next starting off a little slow but when the drums and bass kick in were back in Afrobeat territory again the horns the real leaders though this time they play sharp staccato lines. The EP ends with ‘Abusey Junction’ which originally appeared on the ‘We Out Here’ (2018) compilation that bought showcased the burgeoning and diverse current Jazz scene in London. The track is down tempo and focus more on the guitar, percussion, bass and electric piano compared with a lot of Kokoroko’s music to date, it’s an excellent track on a great EP. I ‘d really like to see Kokoroko live as I missed my chance last year and I can’t wait to hear what they deliver on their debut album, they are a band that has already shown they can be fantastic and yet still show so much promise.

 

Let me know what you think of these releases and about your favourites in the Comments below.

 

 

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It’s been seven years since Axel Willner released “From Here We Go Sublime” his debut album as The Field and with each new album he has incrementally evolved his sound. “Cupid’s Head” sees him changing his sound the most so far, exploring a darker and moodier side that is in stark contrast to most of his previous work as The Field, though it shares some similarities with his Loops of the Heart project. In fact, the album the seems to taking its cues from his debut’s centrepiece ‘The Deal’ “an intimidating monolith of techno that swells and pulsates over its 10-minute running time.”

The album opens with ‘They Won’t See Me’ where a synth sound echoes out before the main beat and stuttering chopped up synth lead come striaght in swiftly followed by a slow moving analogue synth melody. Two and a half minutes the hi-hats double in intensity, there’s no sign of a snare or clap. Three minutes and thirty seconds in a new resonate fuzzy synth melody comes arching over the mix and bring with it another chopped elements that sounds like a vocal loop. While the track glistens on the surface, there’s darkness lurking below. Next up is ‘Black Sea’ which begins with a vocal sample that bounces through a delay over the top of a thin drum machine rhythm and chopped up sound bed. Around forty five seconds in a filter sweep synth subtly enters the mix. one minute thirty seconds in the sound bed of chopped audio shifts in rhythm and the track gains renewed purpose. Again three minutes in there’s a shift a it renews the track momentum, the synths sounded wetter now, coated in delay and with a thicker layered beat underneath. The layered synths start to fade out around seven minutes in giving way to a pulsing synth bass line and techno beat. Shuffling hats drop in eight minutes and fourty five seconds in and the bass line turns more acid techno, breathy vocal sample bounce around the stereo mix. All ready its clear that this The Field’s densest and darkest work to date and despite the shifting sound beds and techno beats it also feels like his least club friendly, this isn’t a criticism of the music, Wilner’s music has always worked in home as well as the club but this time it might just work in the home.

The title track opens with another vocal sample, this time covered in heavy huge reverb. It’s swiftly followed a shuffling hi-hat pattern and thumping techno bass drum. The intensity of the hi-hats doubles one minute in pushing the track forward. There’s a break down around two minutes thirty seconds that leaves the vocal alone apart from an analogue synth bass line, there’s a real impact when everything drops back about thirty seconds later. There’s a static, subtle synth melody underpinning this section. The bass becomes more dominate and overbearing as the track continues towards its climax. It’s a great example of Willner’s skillful use of dynamics and also that his every element of his music can stand of it’s own as well as with the other elements of a track. ‘A Guided Tour’ combines a slow moving melody and synth bass arpeggio bubble up that fade in slowly before being joined by a deep, pulsing bass drum and simple hi-hat pattern. The hi-hat pattern changes after a few bars and is swiftly joined by a new more resonant filtered synth arpeggio. A great rolling bass line/drone comes in around five minutes in, along with a deep, repeatitive vocal sample.

‘No. No…’ starts off with a flapping bass drone and distorted and reverberate female vocal singing ‘no, no,no, no, no…’ a bass line is just audible below the noise drone. New synths slip in subtle around three minutes in and the bring a spiky heavily phased hi-hat pattern kicks in and a slow moving melody emerges. The album finishes with  the epic ’20 Seconds of Affection’ which kicks off with a noise synth and distant glistening synth arpeggio,  before a bass drum emerges from the murk pushes the track forward. A cool subtle synth bass pulse comes in around four minutes in.

With ‘Cupid’s Head” Willner has shown why he’s consider one of the finest techno artists of his generation, yet again he’s provided an album full of detail and heart, all underpinned with analogue sound and techno pulse. The quality level on his releases never drops and “Cupid’s Head” is no different, though this time he’s demonstrated that he can dramatically change the mood of his work without losing what makes it great in the first place. “Cupid’s Head” is highly recommended to techno and electronica fans who what some dark and deeper and those that love dark, dense electronic soundtrack by the likes of John Carpenter, Cliff Martinez and Wendy Carlos.

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Since 2007 Oneohtrix Point Never has gone from releasing limited edition CDR’s of New Age influenced drone music, then finding critical acclaim with his compilation album “Rifts” (2009) and official debut album “Returnal” (2010) which saw him move into more complex and edited version of his trademark sound. His last album “Replica” saw him take things a step further embracing the micro edits techniques associated with electronica artists such as Autechre, Aphex Twin and Fennesz. This has lead to his first album for Warp Records home to both Autechre and Aphex Twin. I’ll admit that at first I was unsure about why Oneohtrix Point Never had signed for Warp but after hearing ‘Problem Areas’ from the album it became clear that this album belongs in that lineage of artists.

The album starts as it means to go on with seemingly predetermined structures playing out across the track (not something that Oneohtrix is known) and micro details often passing in the blink of an eye. Oddly this feels like Oneohtrix’s most accessible offering to date and he has scaled back on the irriating micro edited rhythmic vocal sampling of “Replica” but the album also feels like a grower not music with an immediate impact. ‘Boring Angel’ opens with huge held synth chords that have a religious church organ vibe. Insistent yet distant wooden percussion is tapped out in the background. More layers of synth/organ enter creating an even more beautiful, immense and dense sound. Around one minute 30 seconds in a synth arpeggio suddenly springs into life, followed by a rhythmic cutting synth sound that is almost like a human vocal that’s been micro edited. Things breakdown to just calm vocal pad and then church organ epicness for the outro of the track it ends abruptly. Its followed by ‘Americans’ a jungle of complex wet with reverb sounds open the track before being adruptly interupted and an arpeggio that sounds like Gamelan music comes in, swiftly followed by a counterpoint melody that sounds like a female voice another that’s sythetic yet wooden. After a chaotic middle section on which its hard to keep track of the sounds flying around your ears, everything does calm, the track breaking down to just lush synth pad for about thirty sounds before the original melodies all steadily reintroduce themselves.


Across the there’s an implied hip-hop influence (in fact, Oneohtrix recently admiteed to being “obsessed” with Nicki Minaj) and this goes some way to explaing why this Onehotrix’s most coherently percussive album to date. The tracks that best represent this stylistic change are ‘He She’, ‘Along’, ‘Cryo’ and ‘Still Life’. Both ‘He She’ and ‘Along’ share oriental melodies that hint at the Minaj obsession and a lot of percussive stab sounds that have used since the mid 80’s when hip-hop producers got their hands on the first samplers. ‘Cryo’ and ‘Still Life’ share the current underground hip-hop scenes love of heavy yet minimal and super slow beats.


One of the album’s highlights is ‘Zebra’ which sees Oneohtrix trying his hand at ambient techno (albeit while never actually letting the track take off) its use of techno like synth, synthetic vocal choir coated in thick and a piano melody make the track like a collaboration with Laurel Halo. The album closes with ‘Chrome Country’ big expressive synth chords open this track, 30 seconds in there joined by female vocals harmonies, synth stabs, a distant piano arpeggio that steadily fades in to become the main melody and a deep bass that falls on the first beat of the bar. The vocal samples take the lead briefly before then playing counterpoint to the piano and a couple of other melodic snippets that fall in and out of the mix. An synth melody gets involved around two minutes 30 seconds before the track breaks down briefly to just pad and strings at 3 mins 10 secs. Then the piano arp plays above then joined shortly after by a grand organ melody and female choir pad before the whole track is faded out.
“R Plus Seven” is Oneohtrix Point Never’s most accessible album to date and yet at the same it feels like a grower. I put this down the fact that its a very technical and structured album that lacks the emotional immediace that so much of his earlier material so brilliant and vivid. This album is a Warp Records and in time with reveal all of its intricate details and maybe some emotional resonances. It’s by no means the worst Oneohtrix Point Never album (for me that’s “Replica”) and has some great tracks across the album. It’s an album that’s worth checking out and spending some time with but it is a different beast to previous Oneohtrix albums.

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