Tag Archive: Elements Of Light


Kirsty’s Review

Release of the Month

Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory – Elements Of Light (Rough Trade)

The productions of German artist Pantha du Prince (Hendrik Weber) have always lived on emotional rather than physical tension. They are an evocative and organic flux that while not dance floor-friendly are impressive to behold; majestic and intimate at the same time. So “Elements Of Light” is a natural and logical extension of the ideas Weber has been incorporating for a while on the exemplary “Black Noise” and “This Bliss” albums. The richly harmonic tones produced by Norwegian group The Bell Laboratory’s real-world percussion bring flesh to the elements of classic minimalism that were folded in to Weber’s emotive techno of previous releases. His use of electronic instruments as a counterpoint to The Bell Laboratory’s clanging, chiming bells and their bell carillon, made up of 50 bronze bells with a combined weight of three tonnes, are seamlessly woven together with long stretches of the album naturally gliding and swelling in dynamics. It is so expansive and sweeping that the album needs to be experienced as a single, mutating composition. “Elements of Light” is full of adventure, buzzing with possibilities and surprises and absolute in its focus on music’s power to evoke emotions. This is not an unfocused, clinical instrumental album, rather it is driven by narrative, particularly when Pantha Du Prince and The Bell Laboratory venture into the mazy, complex 10 minute-plus pieces ‘Particle’ and ‘Spectral Split’. They direct listeners to follow paths and see how they all flow together to form the tracks’ body.

It’s in ‘Spectral Split’ that “Elements of Light” shows its many tones. From bleary ambience to a Steve Reich-ian use of minimalist momentum, to the weaving of classical and electronic dynamics and textures that Weber is so clearly enamoured with, the track demonstrates his astute understanding of the importance of anticipation and tension in dance music. Almost half of its 17-minute life is devoted to a slow build that finally explodes into joyful colour once all the layers click into place. This sense of release surfaces sporadically throughout and is fundamental to making it work, but it’s always delivered with a great degree of control and patience. The addition of Pantha Du Prince’s techno beats underneath that three tonne carillion can’t help but make the track sound triumphant and celebratory. ‘Particle’ juxtaposes ominous, church bell-like clangs with lighter tones that skip and twist across its surface. It’s almost giddy at times and doesn’t quite finish where the listener expects. Again Weber brings in those recognisable Pantha Du Prince beats and warm embracing swells of bass to act as an anchor, gifting the album with both a sense of wonder and comforting familiarity. ‘Particle’, like the album as whole, is full of surprise twist and turns. The flashes of inspiration are the points where the album really excels. These unexpected surprises are what make the album work. The final track ‘Quantum’ is built on understated ambience, a few glassy notes spinning in kaleidoscopic patterns as it blossoms in to a confident, bouncing techno track glistening with sparkling, fragile textures. Listening to “Elements of Light” is about absorbing the gradual, evolving transitions by which Weber and The Bell Laboratory travel from one point to the next then return. Their ensemble setup emphasises Hendrik Weber’s talent for arrangements, his way of interlacing electronic and acoustic sounds into a luxurious whole. By underlining his productions’ strengths: emotive, graceful, warm and rich, “Elements Of Light” illuminates Pantha Du Prince’s music from within.

Watch Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory perform ‘Spectral Split’ live:

Liam’s Reviews

Disappointment of the Month

Toro Y Moi – “Anything In Return” (Carpark)

I’ve been a fan of Toro Y Moi since his debut album “Causers of This” (2010) but this follow to the excellent “Underneath the Pine” (2011) is disappointing with its overall tastful and repeatition of sounds. It seems that Toro Y Moi has mostly retreated from the funk infused ambient pop of “Underneath the Pine” and instead opted to persue direction that recalls his dance music side project Les Sins. Opener ‘Harm in Change’ is the first track to adapt this style with its four to the floor beat, claps and piano chords its the epitome of bland house music. ‘Say That’, ‘So Many Details’, ‘Rose Quarantz’ and ‘Touch’ continue in this style with little separate them the same key sounds dominating (four to the floor rhythm, dance percussion, tasteful piano and synth pads and leads), its all very vanilla. Its not all bland dance music though with the funk returning on ‘Cola’ with its tough delayed beats and synth and delicous synth squiggles battling for attention with the lead vocals. ‘Studies’ has a similar feel though the falsatto vocals in the chorus are annoying and the seductive grooveS of ‘High Living’ and ‘Grown Up Calls’ are welcome too. However, were back to the bland with ‘Cake’ electronic balladry, the clumping beats of ‘Day One’. The quasi cosmic house of ‘Never Matter’ and ‘How’s It Wrong’ round out a disappointing third for an artist who’d excelled so recently, I hope that Toro Y Moi returns with something more like  “Underneath the Pine” soon.

Solange – “True” (Terrible)

From the buoyant opening single ‘Losing You’ to the pounding 80’s drum machine and bass guitar twangs of closer ‘Bad Girls (Verdine version) the quality and pop nous on display on “True” never lets up. In a world full of swallow and bland R&B and pop music Solange finds that combining the best elements of 80’s, 90’s and early 00’s R&B is the best way to revive this stale genre. The song’s are unfussy yet also catchy and instantaneously command the listener’s attention with their crisp production, plentiful hooks, melodies and often minimal arrangements. The synthetic and real instruments are expertly balanced and the melodies are always present and correct asserting themselves while never being in your face. In a world where every pop song and star is screaming personality and desperately trying to grab everyone’s attention, it’s refreshing to hear someone who can actually articulate their emotions and personality while taking a step back and communicating at a normal volume. “True” is perfect pop music and I can’t wait to hear what Solange does next. I hope she continues to make her unorthodox but striking pop songs.

Mountains – “Centralia” (Thrill Jockey)

I have to admit to being sceptical when I heard that Mountains were releasing a new album, as I’d been really disappointed by their last album “Air Museum” (2011). However, by the end of the opening track ‘Sand’ I already felt that this was a band heading back to the sound of their finest album to date 2009’s “Choral”. ‘Sand’ establishes one of the two main strands that the album is split into; this is the half of the album that focuses on complex layering of analogue synths with gorgeous warm interweaving synth melodies and floating modulated pads creating a lush soundscapes that swills around your head. Track two ‘Indentical Ship’ introduces the second strand of the album with more acoustic instruments e.g. acoustic guitars and piano dominating the mix and changing the feel of the track to a more spacious and sparse while remaining just as effective as the more complex ‘Sand’. ‘Circular C’ picks up where ‘Indentical Ship’ left off but there is a great section part way through where the synths and acoustic instruments blur together being apart and one at the same time, it’s a stunning effect the band repeats on the intro of ‘Living Lens’. ‘Tilt’ expands on band’s kosmiche musik influences with its acoustic guitar and bowed strings adding a post rock feel to an already impressive sound palette. One important difference between this album and “Air Museum” is that the later felt like an uncharacteristic wash of sound, that merely aped the band’s beloved kosmiche musik this album even when the influences are worn on its selves contains enough invention and emotional tension to make it stand out from the many other acts making this type of music. Whether you’re already a Mountains fan or are intrigued by this review, I’m confident you’ll find agree this is another great entry into Mountains back catalogue.

Release of the Month

A$AP Rocky – “Long.Live.A$AP” (Polo Grounds/RCA)

On his much anticipated debut album A$AP Rocky manages to both upgrade his established formula with the high production values of a major label hip-hop album and explore new sonic and emotional territory. For the first half of the album his trademarks abound e.g. chopped and screwed vocals, noise ambience and a ton of self confident swag. However in the second half he finds himself backed up by music that sets a more sombre tone. ‘Fashion Killa’ is the most feminine feeling track by far with its chopped up choir samples and breathy female vocals giving it a light feel, it’s almost a love song and a potential pop single. ‘Phoenix’ which is produced by Danger Mouse utilise bass guitar, piano and sighing vocal harmonies to stunning effect, delay and pitching effects are used in a subtle and psychedelic way, a subtle nod of A$AP’s trademarks. ‘Suddenly’ showcases A$AP’s story telling abilities (not something he’d shown before) and is a master class in tension and release. The first of album is no worse for conforming to A$AP’s established formula the album opens with a thunder clap that gives way to the familiar ambient synth washes and 808 beat drop before A$AP struts onto the track, however the chorus begins us a twist with a picked electric guitar melody backing what may or may not be A$AP singing. It’s followed by ‘Goldie’ with blunt percussion, tough hip-hop beats and chopped and simple metallic synth melody. Other highlights include the guest heavy ‘Fuckin’ Problems’ and ‘1 Train’ in which A$AP seems totally at home amongst some of the biggest and hottest MC’s on the current hip-hop scene. Overall “Long. Live. A$AP” is a triumphant debut album and the first Album of the Year contend for 2013.

What Kirsty’s Looking Forward to

Albums

Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory – “Elements of Light” (Rough Trade) 11th January

Sonic Fiction favourite Pantha Du Prince (Hendrik Weber) has teamed up with Norwegian musicians The Bell Laboratory for a collaborative album, “Elements of Light”. The video previews below display the German techno producer and The Bell Laboratory creating an ambitious symphony of electronics, percussion and a special bell carillon, a three-tonne instrument consisting of fifty bronze bells.

Pantha du Prince & the Bell Laboratory – Trailer 1 from Sandra Trostel on Vimeo.

Pantha du Prince & the Bell Laboratory – Trailer 2 from Sandra Trostel on Vimeo.

Apparat – “Krieg und Frieden” (Mute) 15th February

The electronic music producer returns with an album based on a German theatre production of Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace, directed by Sebastian Hartmann. Once Hartmann asked Apparat, born Sascha Ring, to contribute music to the project, the producer then spent four weeks working with a 30-piece ensemble in an empty factory alongside Apparat’s live band members Philipp Timm and Christoph Hartmann. After the piece’s final performance Ring, C. Hartmann and Timm transformed the soundtrack into a work for album release. Ring says of “Krieg und Frieden”, “It’s the first record ever that didn’t hurt at some point. It’s full of imperfection because it was made by humans.” He goes on to describe the album as “a bit of a weird record with not many beats and lots of drones.”

Grab the free ‘A Violent Sky’ now:

Function – “Incubation” (Ostgut Ton) 4th March

Nearly 20 years into Function’s career comes his solo debut album “Incubation” on the luminary Ostgut label.  As a member of Sandwell District and as a solo artist he is known for producing sleek, atmospheric techno, which he will explore further on his album, which was mastered by the respected engineer Tobias Freund. His goal,  “was to create something cinematic and heavy on imagery and emotion.” and  a “soundtrack.” The release was conceived as “one endless piece to be listened to straight through. So everything is connected and there are reoccurring themes throughout the album.” Listen to his beautiful ‘Inter’ below:

Ellen Allien – “LISm” (BPitch Control) March

Berlin icon Ellen Allien is due to release her seventh album “LISm” in March. The album is closely based on a soundtrack Allien wrote for the Drama per Musica dance recital performed in 2011 at Paris’ Spectacles Vivants Festival. She called on Bruno Pronsato to aid her with expanding the pieces and to co-produce “LISm”. As usual the album will be released through BPitch Control, the label she’s managed for over a decade.

Stream a medley of “LISm” below:

The Knife – “Shaking The Habitual” (Mute) 8th April

After seven years we will finally see the release of the Swedish brother-sister duo’s third studio album “Shaking The Habitual”. Their last was the flawless “Silent Shout” from 2006. In 2010 they released, “Tomorrow In A Year”, the collaborative album with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock that was written for an opera/performance piece based on the life and work of Charles Darwin. Both members have also released solo records under pseudonyms – Karin as the acclaimed Fever Ray and Olaf as Oni Ahyun. Light Asylum member Shannon Funchess has contributed to vocals to the album which will be released via Mute/Brille.

This video, which may or not be The Knife, leaked online could provide clues on what we can expect.

Listen to the title track from “Silent Shout” below:

Artists

Audion – Matthew Dear has hinted via Twitter that new material from his techno side project Audion could on the horizon this year. Listen to the classic ‘Mouth to Mouth’ below:

Answer Code Request – Patrick Gräser has this far released a handful of refreshingly varied, rolling techno 12″s on labels as Ostgut Ton, Marcel Dettmann’s MDR Records and Music Man. His “Main Mode” 12″ is an essential listen with other tracks of his included on Norman Nodge’s excellent “Berghain06” and Dettmann’s “Conducted” mix. Maybe in 2013 Answer Code Request will take the leap to producing a full length release.

Kompakt celebrates 20 Years

The esteemed German label will celebrate its 20th birthday in 2013 with a host of special events, including an extensive European tour, a documentary chronicling the rise of the label, a “fanzine” and re-issues. The best news yet is they of course will release new music throughout 2013. While there are no exact release dates, we can expect new albums from Justus Köhncke, Coma, The Field and Gui Boratto.

What Liam’s Looking Forward to

Albums

A$AP Rocky – “Long.Live.A$AP” 14th January

Having discovered A$AP Rocky through his “LiveLoveA$AP” (2010) I was looking to hearing his debut album and its finally coming out in just a weeks time after many delays. The album features top underground hip-hop producers such as Clams Casino, Hit Boy, A$AP Ty Beats, Soufein3000, Joey Fat Beats and Rocky himself and has already gained a Best New Music award from Pitchfork. “Long.Live.A$AP” promises to be one of the Albums of the Year 2013.

Jamie Lidell – “Jamie Lidell” 18th February

Jamie Lidell returns with his self titled fifth album in February 2013, pre release track “What A Shame” finds him returning to the electronic sound of his first two solo albums “Muddling Gear” (2000) and the brilliant “Multiply” (2005).

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Push the Sky Away” 18th February

The long awaited follow up to “Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!” (2008) has got me excited due to its trailer and the Gaspar Noe directed video for first single ‘We Know Who U R’, a simple but highly effective song with a video to match. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album!!!

Low – “The Invisible Way” 18th March

In 2013 Low celebrate their 20th anniversary as a band, they will also release their 13th studio album. Produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy at Wilco’s Chicago studio, The Loft, the band visited the studio while on tour and decided to record with Tweedy after hearing his work on Mavis Staples “You Are Not Alone” (2010).

David Bowie – “The Next Day” March 2013

On Tuesday (8th January)  David Bowie announced his return with his 30th studio album and his first since 2003’s “Reality”. The first single from “The Next Day” is ‘Where Are We Now’ which harks back to the “Heroes” (1977) a Bowie classic. This has surprised many critics and fans alike as Bowie is generally perceived as a forward thinking artist. However, this overlooks much of Bowie’s output in the 90’s and 00’s which referenced his own back catalogue on numerous occasions. Producer Tony Visconti quickly aligned any fears of Bowie deserting his innovative roots describing the album as both “innovative” and “quite a rock album” continuing if people are looking for classic Bowie, they’ll find it on this album”.

Adrian Younge and Ghostface Killah – “Twelve Reasons to Die” early 2013

“Twelve Reasons to Die” is the result of an unlikely collaboration between producer and film score composer Adrian Younge (most famous for his work on the brilliant blaxploitation homage “Black Dynamite) and Wu Tang Clan MC Ghostface Killah. The album is executive produced by RZA (Wu Tang Clan) and comes with a comic book written by Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon of Ashcan Press.

Factory Floor – “Title TBA” 13th May

After a good two years of singles and build up it seems that the band will finally release their much anticipated début album in May 2013 on DFA records. The album will be preceded by the single ‘Fall Back’ eight and a half minutes of slow burning dance floor intensity.

YoungBlood Brass Band – “Pax Volumi” early 2013

The latest from the band is that they have completed their new album with a release planned for early in 2013, accompanied by an extensive world tour. I look forward to hearing this explosive bands combination of raw live jazz and hip-hop elements, been much missed since the brilliant “Is That A Riot?” (2006).

Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – “Title TBA” Spring 2013

The band recently announced their new album would be out in the new year, more information as we get it.

Madvillain – “Title TBA” 2013

In a recent interview with Benji B on BBC Radio 1 Doom of Madvillain announced that the second album is almost done and he just has to finish off two songs and that if they’re finished on time the album could be out before the end of 2012. 2012 is now been and gone but the album is close to completion so hopefully it will be released before the year is out.

Artists

AlunaGeorge

AlunaGeorge’s music has been bouncing around the internet for around a year now and now the male-female duo are hotly tipped for success and finishing second in the BBC’s Sound of 2013 didn’t hurt their chances of going supernova this year. However, its their music and not polls that has me excited an combination on Timbaland and The Neptunes style beats, off kilter synths and R&B vocals instantly mark them out from the pack, while never forgetting about a hummable tune and killer hook. Their debut album “Body Music” comes out in June and I can’t wait for it. To read an interview with band on The Guardian’s website click here.

Ryan Hemsworth

Ryan Hemsworth started out providing beats for cloud rap acts such as Attrakionz and Deniro Farrar until the release of his instrumental E.P. “Last Words” late in 2012 in which he expanded out into a skewed hip-hop, ambient and dance music hybrid. His main influences are Three 6 Mafia, Mannie Fresh, Hudson Mohawke, Aphex Twin and Ryuichi Sakamoto. I look forward to hearing more material from this promising young producer.

Joey Bada$$

18 year old Joey Bada$$ released his excellent debut mixtape “1999” which perfectly recreated late 90’s New York and catapulted Bada$$ and his PRO ERA crew into the spotlight. It also drew the attention of legendary hip-hop producer DJ Premier and the two will release a free on Mountain Dew’s Green Label Sound next week.

Night Engine

Although originality isn’t their strong suit musically Night Engine do create exciting music and show the potential to develop into a great guitar pop band. They recall both Franz Ferdinand and Berlin era and early 80’s David Bowie and neither of those are bad artists to be a reminder of. Check out their debut single ‘Seventeen/Treat Me Like a Baby’ below and read more about the band here.

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