Tag Archive: Matthew Dear


 

Since her debut release in 2010 Tokimonsta’s sound has evolved starting out as a glitch-hop producer who went on to become the first female producer signed to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label she’s in moving towards a more commercial sound since 2013’s “Half Shadows” album which was released on dance label Ultra. “Fovere” sees her continue this evolution while also referencing her past in glitch-hop.

Acoustic piano, processed vocals, heavy use of reverb and slick transitions are common traits thorughout “Fovere”, Tracks are short, tight and to the point, never outstaying there welcome, Most tracks stick to a fairly minimalist style, which is refreshing when compared to the maximalist EDM that currently dominates pop music.

I’m waiting’ opens with ascending synth arpeggio with spots of heavily processed vocal weaving in and out of the mix. The general vibe is very relaxed and ambient. However, for the final third bass drum and snare become much more prominent in the mix and propel the track towards its climax.

Next up, is ‘Put it down’ feat. Anderson Paak & KRNE. This is very much a club track, it starts with quick ascending plucked string and shuffling beat with Anderson Paak’s vocals coming in shortly after. The track then drops to a more straight ahead beat with a good swing, and a hook that will get stuck in your head. Stutter vocals come in on the second chorus giving the song more rhythmic variety and more electronic feel. This is easily Tokimonsta’s best club track to date and stands had the shoulders above the other tracks in the same style on this mini album. ‘Giving up’ feat Jonny Pierce begins with guitar and sighing harmonics from Pierce. Then the track breaks down with fast-moving high has slow-moving bass line consent atmospherics underpinning the vocals this picks up into a chorus featuring tightly timed piano arpeggios and finger snaps. Towards the end of the track two different vocal tracks intertwine while and an 8-bit synth line adds further melodic sophistication. Been true in general vibe reminds me of Leeds band Stateless, who did kind of cool Coldplay meets trip hop album from 2007. Second electronic track I know of that features Johnny Pierce of the drums, the first being a Matthew Dear track called ‘In the middle (I met you there)’

My favourite non club track on the mini-alum is ‘Straight Lace’ as it reminds me of earlier Tokimonsta tracks. Compressed squelchy beat and airy synth open the track and are then jo9ined by a nice percussion loop and reverb heavy piano chords. Occasionally we hear Tokimonsta’s owned processed vocals deep in the mix. As the track develops and makes more room for her vocals to become the lead vocals. My favourite tracks so far reminds me of earlier Tokimonsta tracks. Again it’s nice to hear understated track in a genre that just seems to scream LOUDER LOUDER LOUDER!!!

The mini album closes with ‘Wound Up’ feat. Allie with its dirty processed synths that weave in and out of each other before reverb heavy vocal harmonies poemerge into the mix. When the rhythm comes in its in double time and skitters along behind the vocal harmonies, a simple minor sounding melody plays over the top. Then the track gets going properly first with of a strong and full vocals coming in quickly followed by the return of the hi-hats and a snare drum. Lots of pitched vocals in the breakdown before a kalimba melody comes in this section and continues into the final section bringing the track and “Fovere” to their conclusions.

Overall, I feel this is a solid release from Tokimonsta and points towards a bright future where she continues to develop her sound and attract a larger audience.

Let me know your thoughts on “Fovere” and Tokimonsta in the comments below or via Sonic Fiction’s Twitter.

 

Advertisements

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.

1.       Julia Holter –“Ekstasis” (RVNG INTL)

folder

It was obvious at the time of release that with “Ekstasis” Julia Holter had created something special and the album was made Release of the Month for March and then topped my “Top Ten Albums of the Year… so far” in June. Little has changed since then and while there has been some serious competition nothing has matched Holter in the Alternative category.

The first thing that struck me about “Ekstasis” is the brightness of its sound, gone is the shadowy and foggy atmosphere’s of last year’s excellent “Tragedy” replaced by a sharp and incisive production job to revival today’s most intelligent pop stars. Ok, so Holter’s not going to be the next million selling pop star but this album’s production is almost the opposite of “Tragedy”’s. Then there’s the effortless feel of a lot of the music, despite many of the tracks being over 6 minutes in length. There’s no feeling of over indulgence even when a saxophone rears its head on ‘Four Gardens’ and ‘This Is Ekstasis’ everything here earns its place and makes sense within the context of the songs. It would be tempting to compare Holter to her many contemporaries within the hypnogogic pop genre especially her friend and collaborator Nite Jewel. Though her use of delay and reverb create similar feelings/images the musical content aims instead to transport the listener further back than the 1980s and into the ancient world which Holter is so interested in. With “Ekstasis” Holter has created her own sound world that seems to subtle reference pre-existing sounds/genres and rhythms without ever sounding directly like anything you’ve previously heard. An artist who can switch with ease between different sounds and sections without breaking a sweat or alienating the listener, Holter is an artist with a bright and long future ahead of her.

2.       Matthew Dear – “Beams” (Ghostly International)

Matthew Dear returns with his fifth album under his own name and “Beams” is another great work from an artist who has consistently delivered the good over the years. “Beams” differs from Dear’s previous solo albums as its not produced by him but Van Rivers and the Subliminal Kid, most famous for their work with Fever Ray and Blonde Redhead, of which Dear is a fan. The album combines the dark sounds of Dear’s last album “Black City” and the Talking Heads influenced techno-pop of his masterpiece “Asa Breed”. Due to his superior production and song writing skills Dear makes combining these two different but not unconnected sounds seem like child’s play and the result is an effortless feel throughout the album.  The album begins with the singles ‘Her Fantasy’ and ‘Earthforms’ the former a tropical sounding techno pop track of the highest quality the latter Dear self described “ deepest delve into a straight rock song”. The album swiftly moves on to another tropical sounding track in ‘Headcage’ the groove led title track of Dear’s EP from January this year. Two more upbeat groove based tracks in ‘Fighting is Futile’ and the Talking Heads influenced ‘Up and Out’ whizz by and give up the more electronically inclined second half of the album. This starts with the Surging synth bass line and techno beat ‘Overtime’ that are barely contained by speakers. ‘Get the Rhyme Right’ returns to similar territory to ‘Earthforms’ but with the emphasis on twisted synths and distorted guitars that smother the drums and bass in their electric filth! Things get more sparse and down tempo on ‘Ahead of Myself’ with Dear’s breathy vocals given minimal synth and drum machine backing. Then album enters the home coming straight with ‘Do The Right Thing’ a song that starts with just a bubbling and bouncing groove topped with lo-fi simple melody but steadily and sublty develops into a full and rounded track thanks to Dear’s masterful arranging. He finishes the album with the one-two punch of ‘Shake Me’ a dark torch song that recalls Depeche Mode of their most moody and magnificent and ‘Temptation’ a slow burner that repays the listeners patience tenfold! All in all “Beams” is a great album from an artist well into his career showing that he can still learn and keep the listen guessing  and satisfied even after all this time.

3.       Orcas – “Orcas” (Morr Music)

The debut album from this Seattle duo leaves me lost for words, one of those albums that are difficult to describe without selling it short. However, I will endeavour to paint a picture of this heartbreakingly beautiful music. The dominate sounds are plaintive piano, twanging to ethereal guitars and vocals and various crackles, hums and heavily processed electronic sounds. These simple elements are manipulated to create different textures, atmospheres and emotions across nine tracks. Though the duo have created a sound of their own there are some influences/inspirations suggested by the music including Peter Broderick & Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie’s soundtrack work, the noise abstract pop of Broadcast (who are covered on the album) and indirectly reminds me of the latest Oneohtrix Point Never album “Replica”. All this is held together by the songwriting touches that are subtly weaved throughout the album helping this album raise above more generic ambient and experimental music releases.

4.       Raime – “Quarter Turns on the Living Line” (Blackest Ever Black)

On their debut album “Quarter Turns on the Living Line” Raime have thrown down the gauntlet to all artists currently working on electronic and experimental music, “up your game before it’s too late.” Though it wasn’t the duo’s intention the album sounds like the soundtrack to an unreleased film, subtly referencing John Carpenter’s “Assault on Precinct 13” score or repositioning Ennio Morricone’s work to an industrial post-apocalyptic world. The duo expand on the critically acclaimed 12”s by adding emotional depth and a more organic sound via the use of field recordings, foley samples and acoustic instrumentation such as guitar, violins and cellos. Whereas the 12”s focused strongly on the duo’s jungle and industrial influences they broaden their range here to include post-rock, the doom metal of Sunn O))) and Earth and of course those previously mentioned soundtracks. The duo also manage to maintain a balance between the dark, heavy sounds and lighter, brighter sounds; another progression from the earlier 12”s. Raime have produced one of the debut albums of year, one that leaves many more established acts in the shade. Long may these soundscapes shapers continue to reign supreme.

5.       King Felix – “Spring EP” (Liberation Technologies)

The “Spring EP” picks up where Laurel Halo left off with the “Hour Logic EP” last summer, though she has some tricks up her sleeve and the music is a lot harder to pin down. Here the rhythms wiggle and squirm restless and constantly shifting not settling into a smooth groove, this is one of the things that makes the EP so exciting you’re never quite sure what’s coming next. The first three tracks are all a variation on the same theme, Halo is so inventive within this limitation that the listener is never bored by the central theme. Halo carves out her own style while referencing the glory years of early Nineties Detroit techno. The other crucial difference between this EP and “Hour Logic” is that whereas many of the tracks on the previous EP sound submerged beneath water this is Halo least veiled work to date; she lets the tracks reveal themselves and breathe all the elements able to exhibit themselves equally. The “Spring EP” is a fantastic addition to Halo’s discography.

6.       Ekoplekz – “Westerleigh Works EP’ (Perc Trax)

Back in January this EP was marketed as Ekoplekz’s first venture into dance floor territory and listening to it you can hear why. However, Ekoplekz still keeps his trademark sounds front and centre but he uses space more effectively and percussive sounds and deep bass provide the forward motion needed in techno music. Of the three originals ‘Ekoplatz’ sounds most like his previous material while being underpinned by techno bass and percussion, the other two ‘Narco Samba’ and ‘Xylem Teardrops’ are more stripped and danceable, while Richard H. Kirk (Cabaret Voltaire) remix of ‘Ekoplatz’ follows a similar template but adds electronic woodblocks, more structural dynamics and some of Kirk’s own idiosyncratic dub sounds. A highly recommended release for those into the darker side of dance music.

7.       Blondes – “Blondes” (RVNG INTL)

Blondes self titled debut album is one that hard to do justice to without its sounding like a repetitive bore-fest, which it is far from. The duo fit into both the modern dance music camp alongside the likes of The Field, Gui Boratto and other Kompakt techno alumni and alongside current ambient and hynagogic pop acts such as Laurel Halo, Teengirl Fantasy and Rene Hell amongst others. Blondes manage to fuse these two opposites together in way that plays to the strengths of both, you never feel the dance elements are getting bogged down by the atmospherics or that the atmospherics are dominated by the dance elements. The duo encompass a range of emotions across the album from the brighter tracks like ‘Gold’ and ‘Amber’ to the dark and subdued ‘Pleasure via drowned Kraftwerkian synth work on ‘Business’ and foggy tension of ‘Water’. One of the album’s strength is that despite the amount of recycling there is (every second track is a re-versioning of the previous track) the variety on show is impressive as is the duo’s ability to keep the listener engaged and excited by these same/similar elements. At the time of release I said the following of “Blondes” “Blondes have not only created a contender for Debut Album of the Year but an early contender for the Album of the Year itself”, as you can see the album has stood the test of time.

8.       Neneh Cherry and The Thing – “The Cherry Thing” (Smalltown Supersound)

When it was originally announced that Neneh Cherry and Swedish jazz trio The Thing would be releasing an album full of reinterpreted versions of songs in a range of genres from post-punk to hip-hop via jazz itself, the collaboration didn’t make sense to me. However, after a little internet research and hearing two tracks from the album my mind was changed and I got quite excited about the prospect of this album. It didn’t let me down either with The Thing more restrained than they usually are and Cherry on dazzling form on vocals. The album opens with a version of Cherry’s ‘Cashback’ (one of two originals on the album) featuring fantastic twangy double bass, a drum break and counterpoint sax playing off her melodious lead vocal. Things get striped back on a twinkling vibraphone heavy version of Suicide’s ‘Dream Baby Dream’ before a return to a more aggressive tone with the drum and double bass assault of ‘Too Tough To Die’ (Martina Topley Bird). ‘Sudden Movement’ is the other original this time written by Mats Gustafsson of The Thing, a dark and dusty yet up beat jazz number. The tempo slows again for Madvillain’s ‘Accordion’ with Cherry trying a half sung half rapped vocal over twangy double bass and subtle arching sax. There are also two nods to Cherry’s father Don (a famous jazz musician, The Thing take their name from one of his songs) the first is by Don himself the ghostly and experimental ‘Golden Heart’ the other is a track original by jazz innovator Ornette Coleman whom Don Cherry complete his jazz apprenticeship with, this track is a sparse finish to a busy and fiery album full of passion and heat. Recommended to fans of the unexpectedly enjoyable!!!

9.       Drokk – “Music Inspired by Mega City One” (Invada)

It’s hard to describe this album without overusing the words analogue synth(s) but here goes. The album uses just one synth as its primary mode of composition but Geoff Barrow (Portishead) and BBC composer Ben Salisbury manage to make limitation the mother of invention creating everything from intense drone heavy soundscapes to arpeggio led tracks via more delicate and reflective moments. In many ways the album bears comparison with this year’s other imaginary soundtrack album “Themes for an Imaginary Film” by Symmetry and though it’s not as ambitious as Symmetry’s album its equal as satisfying a listen. Drawing on many classic synth soundtrack staples such as John Carpenter, Vangelis, Walter/Wendy Carlos and with hints of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and other T.V. music from the 70’s and 80’s. However, repeat plays reveal this isn’t an album that merely imitates and pays homage but is an equal to those great synth soundtrack composers, the album throbs with the tension of a Carpenter score, while Vangelis arpeggios abound and experimental sounds that the Radiophonic Workshop and Walter/Wendy Carlos are thrown in at the appropriate moment and to keep the listener guessing. If Symmetry’s album is the Hollywood blockbuster then “Drokk…” is a homemade marvel and all the better for it.

10.     Peaking Lights – “Lucifer” (Weird World)

“Lucifer” showcases a more immediate version of their sound from previous foggy lo-fi releases. In fact along with Julia Holter’s “Ekstatis” this album proves that lo-fi home recordings can have a clarity and immediacy without sacrificing the grit that made them attractive in the first place. “Lucifer” acts a cooling balm or cool stream water leaping at your feet instead of the more humid and clammy sound of 2011 brilliant “936”, though it’s a little unfair to directly compare those two albums “Lucifer” demonstrates the duo ability to subtle evolve their sound while still using the same basic sound set. Maybe the biggest difference musical is that Peaking Lights have chosen to create more up tempo track this time round compared with leisurely to sluggish pace of previous work, this seems to run in tandem with their new clearer and more immediate sound. The best examples of this are the funk strut of ‘Dream Beat’, the pumping bass and purposeful drum beat of ‘Live Love’ and its darker musical twin ‘Midnight (in the Valley of the Shadows)’. Peaking Lights also add some new elements to the album such as marimba on ‘Moonrise’, piano on ‘Beautiful Son’ and an Oriental melody on ‘Live Love’, that it would e great to hear more of future releases. All in all I’d through recommend “Lucifer” to Peaking Lights fans, those who are curious about the duo or those whose interest is piqued by this write up, it’s well worth investigating.

Liam’s Reviews

Biggest Disappointment of the month

JJ Doom – “Keys to the Kuffs” (Lex)

JJ Doom first came into being after MC Doom was sent some beat CDs on his label Lex Records. Most the beats he chose to work with were created by New Orleans based experimental hip-hop producer Jneiro Jarnel. “Keys to the Kuffs” is the result of the collaboration between the two artists. Its all new ground for Doom, completely different to all his previous projects and while this is a breathe of air at times the project feels like two disparate styles that don’t meld together. However, its by no means an album without its moments ‘Guv’nor’s truncated riff, speech samples and Doom’s rhymes all mesh nicely, ‘Banished’ matches penetrating bass with electronic atmospherics and a lo-fi beat  that expertly underpin Doom’s usually speedy flow, ‘Bite the Thong’ provides lyrics on music industry politics and a twisted flow from Doom and the mournful strings and piano chords of ‘Winter Blues’ are well up their with Doom’s best tracks and adds an extra emotive edge to his complex verbiage. Jneiro keeps things interesting with a variety of styles and beats employed and even a few false endings that then lead on new sections that seem completely unrelated to what’s gone before, unfortunately I feel that though he’s by no means a bad producer, his style doesn’t suit Doom’s unique lyrical style and delivery. I’m also disappointed that I cannot hear the the contributions of Damon Albarn, Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and Beth Gibbons (Portishead) as those collaborations seemed like they’d create a contrast to what Doom and Jarnel were expected to provide. Though I’m sure fans of both these artists will find tracks they enjoy hear, I feel overall the album is flawed.

Teengirl Fantasy – “Tracer” (R & S)

The new album by Teengirl Fantasy doesn’t quite live up to expectations but is by no means a massive let down either. The album highlights are ‘Pyjama’ with its broken beats and brittle oriental melodies, ‘End’ with its longing pads, light arpeggios and reverb heavy piano melody, ‘Vector Spray’s tribal beats and sweeping synthetic strings, ‘Do It’ featuring Romanthony of Daft Punk fame with it funky thumping, uplifting house beats and album closer ‘Timeline’ with it glassy arpeggio, knocking beats and Acid style 303 bassline. However, the album lacks variety and fails to convince on the remaining five tracks. The repetition is found in the overuse of glassy synth arpeggios and oriental melodies which grates over the course of the whole album. It also feels like while the duo can deliver thrills aplenty with a track like ‘Do It’ they have a tendency to work their way into an awkward cul-de-sac on other tracks e.g.  ‘Orbit’ and ‘EFX’. Some tracks also suffer from sounding too similar to the duo’s peer particulary Laurel Halo whose sound is recalled throughout the album with no variation on her unique style apparent. As I said at the start of this review its not  all doom and gloom as when the album hits it heights it either delivers in spades or demonstrates great potential for the duo’s future release. Teengirl Fantasy are still a project in development but I await their next move with much anticipation.

Dan Deacon – “America” (Domino)

This very much an album of two halves the first stuffed full of short pop songs, the other a four part classical music style suite. Both are linked to together by Deacon’s concept of writing about America’s greatest geographical vistas and simple experiences. The whole album concurs up images of America from the Grand Canyon to riding on cross country railways and everything in between. This is by far the grandest conceptual and most hi-fi record of Deacon’s career in which he has abandoned traditional instrumentation and studio based recording for circuit bent toys and synthesizers and grotty lo-fi 8 bit sound quality. This lead the album a lush and more detail sound as well as broader sound palette all of which showcases Deacon’s skill as an arranger that may have sometimes been hidden by the noisy natural of his previous albums. The first half opens with the familiar corrosive noise and pounding bass drum that is Deacon trademark before a melody emerges halfway through the opening track ‘Guildford Avenue Bridge’, leading to a temporary blissful ambient section before everything piles back in. Next up is the album’s purest pop song ‘True Thrush’ with its acoustic guitars, and gentle synth arp and piano and mallet riffs that recall the Beach Boy’s finest moments set to a hip-hop beat and given a modern 8-bit twist. ‘Lots’ is an 8-bit electro punk pop stomper complete with sugar rush melodies that blows through your brain and is over before you know it. The first halve finish with the Tangerine Dream-esque ‘Prettyboy’ and ‘Crash Jam’ which channels some of fellow Baltimore oddballs Animal Collective into Deacon’s noisy electro pop song. The second half beings with large arching strings before slowly gather pace and intensity that brings with it 8-bit synth riffs and pounding tribal drums along with complex reverb heavy vocal harmonies and Deacon’s own heavily treated lead vocal. ‘USA II: The Great American Desert’ gives the listen a brief rest bite opening with fizzing and buzzing lead synths and synth bass drone before the entrance of rolling acoustic drums, thundering synth bass, jarring 8-bit melodies and huge vocal harmonies join the party!! The previously mentioned railway trip is evoked on ‘USA III: Rail’ with its complex rhythmic interplay between violin plucks, piano notes and what may or may not be real horns. The album finishes with the immense bass drone and tumbling drums and percussion of ‘USA IV: Manifest’ these elements are later joined by a corrosive synth sound similar to one from the opening track, which bookends the album and ties it together sonically and conceptually. There’s no doubt that “America” is a complex and ambitious work that takes more than a single sitting to digest and though it definitely has some musical success, it’s an album that we’ll be figuring out for a while yet.

Liam’s Top Release of the Month

Matthew Dear – “Beams” (Ghostly International)

Matthew Dear returns with his fifth album under his own name and “Beams” is another great work from an artist who has consistently delivered the good over the years. “Beams” differences from Dear’s previous solo albums as its not produced by him but Van Rivers and the Subliminal Kid, most famous for their work with Fever Ray and Blonde Redhead, of which Dear is a fan. The album combines the dark sounds of Dear’s last album “Black City” and the Talking Heads influenced techno-pop of his masterpiece “Asa Breed”. Due to his superior production and songwriting skills Dear makes combining these two different but not unconnected sounds seem like child’s play and the result is an effortless feel throughout the album.  The album begins with the singles ‘Her Fantasy’ and ‘Earthforms’ the former a tropical sounding techno pop track of the highest quality the latter Dear self described ” deepest delve into a straight rock song”. The album swiftly moves on to another tropical sounding track in ‘Headcage’ the groove led title track of Dear’s EP from January this year. Two more upbeat groove based tracks in ‘Fighting is Futile’ and the Talking Heads influenced ‘Up and Out’ whizz by and give up the more electronically inclined second half of the album. This starts with the Surging synth bass line and techno beat ‘Overtime’ that are barely contained by speakers. ‘Get the Rhyme Right’ returns to similar territory to ‘Earthforms’ but with the emphasis on twisted synths and distorted guitars that smother the drums and bass in their electric filth! Things get more sparse and downtempo on ‘Ahead of Myself’ with Dear’s breathy vocals given minimal synth and drum machine backing. Then album enters the home coming straight with ‘Do The Right Thing’ a song that starts with just a bubbling and bouncing groove topped with lo-fi simple melody but steadily and subtly develops into a full and rounded track thanks to Dear’s masterful arranging. He finishes the album with the one-two punch of ‘Shake Me’ a dark torch song that recalls Depeche Mode of their most moody and magnificent and ‘Temptation’ a slow burner that repays the listeners patience tenfold! All in all “Beams” is a great album from an artist well into his career showing that he can still learn and keep the listen guessing  and satisfied even after all this time.

Vier’s Reviews

Deepchord – “Sommer” (Soma)

Following on from last year’s darkly intense “Hash Bar Loops“,Deepchord (Rod Modell) continues to reinvent and diversify. Traces of the previous album remain on “Sommer” but there is a lighter, more ethereal feel. Deepchord’s characteristic manipulation of space and time remains, which is an integral part of “Sommer”‘s soundscape. Effect-heavy textures, sliding and shifting rhythmic elements and intricate production details create a constantly evolving, vaporous tapestry. Rich field recordings, made on a beach close to Modell’s home, imbue “Sommer” with an aqueous character and create a unified atmosphere that breathes underneath the fluttering percussion and bass pulsing from the speakers. Owing to their airy and aquatic textures, the songs seem like a hybrid of Porter Ricks’ “Biokinetics” and “Merriweather Post Pavilion” by Animal Collective.

Modell explained the reason for “Sommer”‘s relaxed delivery in a recent interview, “This one is different than my previous work. It’s got a lighter feel. The music lacks the tension in other DC projects. Generally, 85% of my recording sessions have been done during the middle of the night. This one was recorded during more daytime hours. Strange as it may seem, I think this affected the outcome. Summertime was in the air. My home is 30 metres to the water/beach, and as I sit in the house, I can see sailboats going by all day and people on the beach. It was stress free. I think this was channelled into the overall feel.” Modell’s new-found guiding practice of “work during the day, by the sea and quickly” (avoiding what he calls analysis-paralysis: a destructive spiral of re-thinking and re-playing of the recorded material in to which many producers fall) results in 13 techno tracks that provide a new view of the ambient Detroit techno that Deepchord has made his own.

“Sommer” captures evocative sound passages. Beautiful, humid atmospheres are drawn in ‘Glow’, ‘Wind Farm’ and ‘Cruising Towards Dawn’, dark fluid journeys traced with ‘Flow Induced Vibrations’ and ‘Gliding’. We travel towards the sunny getaway that ‘Amber’, ‘Benetau’ and ‘The Universe As A Hologram’ propose. In short, “Sommer” is an amalgamation of deep and warm organic atmospherics and dance music. The mood evokes warm summer evenings when the sunset takes on an ethereal and introspective nature. The emotive, atmospheric warmth and intuitively produced layers of details are what makes “Sommer” another essential Deepchord album.

Vier’s Top Release of the Month

Silent Harbour – Silent Harbour (Echochord)

Operating on the cusp of ambient techno and electro-acoustic music, “Silent Harbour”, the new project from Boris Bunnick (who is best known for producing exhilarating techno as Conforce) explores deep-sea submersion and aquatic environments and all the ambiance and isolation such places involve. The concept of “Silent Harbour”: travelling through that great, deep unknown, shines through immediately. From the opening seconds of ‘Aquatic Movement’ the listener is gently lowered below the sea’s surface. Steady pulses guides us past tinkling glass and through gentle washes that sway and shimmer as specks of sounds float by.  Sun rays occasionally beam down from above; sometimes you’re in warm water, other times it’s colder. ‘Cascade’ speaks of danger, suggesting a brewing storm. An attacking beat, which hints at a predator swimming towards prey, builds tension above booms and drones. Further below the surface is ‘Scintillans In The Port’ where we’re met by abstract ambience and gloomy water. Bunnick shapes diffuse sounds until the listener glimpses hallucinatory tones in the dissonant ambience. 4/4 anchored rhythms are fractured and percussions survey the perimeters while the vast space between becomes a playground for radiant metallic timbres and shimmering electronic apparitions. “Silent Harbour”’s structure can be divided into four sections. It takes the listener from the initial submersion down to the gloomy territory of predators then further down to intense, suffocating depths then gradually lifts us back up to the water’s surface during the album’s last four tracks.

‘Geometry’ is the closest song to outright techno on “Silent Harbour”. Bass drums and hats push along; warm bass frequencies soothe and embrace in the warm water. A synth acts as sunrays warming the water’s surface. There is a great focus on details and while it still has a slow tempo (the average BPM is 106) it feels lighter and optimistic. Somehow Bunnik manages to soundtrack what seem like underwater shipwrecks. ‘Dock Operations’ evokes rusted metal and swarms of ocean floor-dwelling vertebrates within dark, murky surroundings. A standout comes in the form of the album’s eighth track ‘Saltwater Intrusion’. Light percussion and sonar-like bleeps introduce a hollow drone that gradually rises to invoke a sense of creeping forebode. After nearly two minutes a determined bass drum cuts through, propelling us further down into the sea. Additional gleaming drones appear and float by.  Shimmering water swirls around the listener as the percussion glides through the expansive ocean. ‘Profundal Zone’ glides the listener through a slow and delicate soundscape. Meditative warm water is recreated with bouncing bass drums, tapping percussion and bubbling synths. The immersive bass frequencies of ‘Descending Radius Curve’ surge and roll as atmospheric sounds appear and dissipate regularly, evoking an exploration of shallow water that bursts with growing coral and flowering aquatic plants. “Silent Harbour” is so brilliantly evocative you will soon forget you’re standing on terra firma. As Kompakt describes it, this is music “for techno heads to fall into when the kicks are too much.”

Vier’s Recommendations

Silent Harbour – “Silent Harbour” 6th August (Echochord)

Dutch producer Conforce debuts a new alias by the name of Silent Harbour with an accompanying eponymous album on 6th August. Best known for dreamy, warm techno, Conforce’s decision to work under an alias is explained by a desire for him to “explore more cerebral and conceptual sounds” with a theoretical focus on “isolation, deep-sea submersion, [and] aquatic environments.” It will be released on the Danish label Echocord. Conforce’s Delsin-released album “Escapism” from November 2011 is highly recommended for fans of techno’s lower BPM side.

DeepChord – “Sommer” 27th August (Soma)

Heir to Berlin’s Rhythm & Sound is the Detroit-based Deepchord. Active since the late ‘90s Deepchord (Rod Modell) has been tweaking the dub-techno formula for years, trying out various balances of muffled beats, hazy ambiance and field recordings. This is precisely what the press release says you can expect from “Sommer” (German for summer): meditative electronic compositions enriched with organic sounds, many of which Modell collected at the beach near his home. “Sommer” comes barely a year after “Hash-Bar Loops” and like that album it will be released on Glasgow institution Soma Records.

Liam’s Recommendations

JJ Doom – “Key to the Kuffs” 20th August (Lex)

JJ Doom is the latest collaborative project to be announced/rumoured for release in 2012 by underground hip-hop legend MF Doom (in addition to Madvillian, Doomstarks and his collaborations with Johnny Greenwood and Thom Yorke from Radiohead) and features producer/rapper Jneiro Jarel. Guests on the album are Beth Gibbons (Portishead), Damon Albarn and Khujo Goodie (Goodie Mob). Check out ‘Guv’nor’ below plus ‘Banished’ from the album here and Dave Sitek’s remix of ‘Rhymin’ Slang’ here.

Teengirl Fantasy – “Tracer” 20th August (R&S)

For their second album “Tracer” Teengirl Fantasy have abandoned their sample based approach and bought in a number high profile guest vocalists Laurel Halo, Panda Bear and Romanthony (most famous for his guest slots with Daft Punk). Moving to Belgian dance label R&S suggests that 4/4 dance beats may more to the fore and so far the three pre-release tracks have demonstrated a good understanding of modern house and Hyperdub dubstep influenced sounds, this could rival Blondes self titled debut album for leftfield dance album of the year!

27th August

Dan Deacon – “America” 27th August (Domino)

The long awaited follow-up to “Bromst” (2009) is Deacon’s first release to use primarily acoustic instruments after many years of creating electronic 8-bit synth music that sounded like a delightfully deranged Atari game soundtrack. This change in direction was prompted after touring “Bromst” with a 13 piece acoustic ensemble. Deacon changed focus on this record making the lyrics and their more positive but still political content front and centre. The album is split into two sides, Side A is full of straight forward pop songs, while Side B is a 21 minute cinematic suite in four parts. The early signs are good with pre-release tracks “Lots” and “True Trush” sounding like wonky pop summer anthems. Whatever the rest of “America” sounds like you can’t doubt Deacon’s ambition.

Matthew Dear – “Beams” August 27th (Ghostly International)

Now a firm fixture on the dance music scene Dear returns with his fourth solo album, the follow up to “Black City” (2010) which featured in Sonic Fiction’s Albums of the Year 2010. The pre-release tracks that have emerged suggest that as with the transition between between “Asa Breed” (2007) and “Black City” Dear continues to subtle evolve his sound rather than completing a revolutary turn around on each new album. This is no bad thing and as he’s always proven in the past, Dear is very much the master of his unique sound.

%d bloggers like this: