Reviews: electronica

(idm / electronica / technoid)

Flint Glass – Nyarlathotep

This release is impressive at first sight: a luxurious fold-out digipack with great artwork and a cd crammed with music. Nyarlathotep takes you deep into the bowels of the earth and is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.
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ICK – Les Actions Rétro-Actives

ICK is the radical French nihiltronix project that is known from its release on Hau Ruck! and other labels. This new LP shows that the project is moving more and more from old style industrial to traditional minimal electronics territory.

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Saltillo – Ganglion

From Hive Records I usually expect harsh and complex electronic music. With their side-label Suspicious Records, the musical scope is widened. Saltillo, a new name for me, is mostly the solo project of one Menton J. Matthews III, aclassically trained musician who plays a whole orchestra of instruments by himself and also does the electronic programming. The result is a diverse and rich sounding debut album.

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Oil 10 – Beyond

Beyond is the follow-up album to Arena (Brume Records, 2003) and the first thing I hear of Oil 10 since the split 10? with Empusae on Divine Comedy Records. Oil 10 is the brainchild of Frenchman Gilles Rossire. He produces electronic music in the shadowzones of ambient and techno.

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Implant – Fading Away

The Belgian act Implant is one of those acts that is hard to define if you want to put them into a niche like EBM, electroclash, electro, industrial or any of those. Implant just is Implant and brings a lot of varied music. Before releasing their seventh album, the crowd is pleased with this EP that with 12 tracks can hardly be called an EP anymore. The only reason to give it this name I guess, is that many of the tracks are remixes and there are only a few truly new songs.

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Antigen Shift – The way of the north

Antigen Shift, a project initiated by Nick Thériault from Canada, made a good impression on me in the past. The cd Implicit Structures and the mcd This Moment Of Cold Remembering (both from 2003) demonstrated a convincing industrial soundscape style. The way of the north appears to me as quite a departure from his previous work.

The album is not very noisy at all, but sounds quite clear and melodic, focusing mostly on the rhythmic framework. The prominent use of samples is also minimized and pushed to the background. The way of the north sounds as atmospheric, quite accessible IDM. A comparison that springs to mind is Gridlock. Though the cd has an arctic theme (and asks our attention for the threats of the arctic biosphere), it does not leave an ice-cold feeling, it’s rather cool or chilly.

In general I quite like this ‘new style’ of Antigen Shift, though I must say that not all tracks can keep my attention, sometimes the prominent beats bore me a little. But there are certainly quite a few compositions that I enjoy, like the dynamic ‘As Flies To Careless Boys We Are To Gods’, the moody ‘Verglas’ as well as ‘Tundra’, where noisy beats and ethereal synths nicely clash.

Ginormous – The Endless Procession

Most of the time Hymen comes up with good releases. From time to time their releases are even more then just good. This Ginormous album is one of those. Expect no standard IDM. This is really something else.

The Endless Procession is a psychedelic trip into an inner and an outer world. I cannot imagine playing just one song from this record. You need to hear all of them after each other to fully experience the richness of this record.

You will hear hip hop and broken beats, (treated) guitar pieces, string melodies and beautiful otherworldy sounds. The tracks are clearly structured and intended to take you by the hand. And, as it should be with all good records the best part is at the end of this cd. ‘Gleaming Rows’, ‘Welcome Vacuum’ and ‘A Mountain People Can Always Climb’ are a stunning conclusion of a great album. The music leaves you floating in outer and inner space.

Too bad I have the single cd version, as The Endless Procession leaves me wanting for more.

Duo505 – Late

I had to pick up this cd when I saw it at a fleamarket for a single euro. Morr Music is a respected label in the field of contemporary electronica, and B. Fleischmann has built up a name with his harmonic electro soundscapes. For Duo505 he worked together with the lesser known classically trained musician Herbert Weixelbaum.

Late comes in an attractive digipack, with nice cartographic artwork. Fitting, because the album also gives me the feel of relaxed travelling. Four of the compositions are created by Fleischmann, three by Weixelbaum. Though ‘Tsip tsap’ starts a bit hectic with dynamic breakbeats, things quickly slow down with an organic, melancholic synth melody. As if you’re leaving the bristling big city in favour of more remote areas where people are never in a hurry.

The whole album has a playful, accessible electro-acoustic sound, somewhere between indie pop and IDM. I find the style and mood of Late very enjoyable, with simple and addictive melodies, crunchy beats and entertaining little crackling, sparkling and bleeping sounds. Recently Fleischmann & Weixelbaum teamed up for another Duo505 adventure, The Humbucking Coil.

Watch a funny video promo for the track ‘Nochwas’.

Detritus – Origin

When I first encountered Detritus (through cdr’s on David Dando-Moore’s own label Fleshmadeword, later renamed Immanence Records) I found the music directly exciting. Dynamic rhythms and raw industrial sounds were joined by lush ethereal melodies in an original and effective symbiosis.

Now a few years later Detritus has released his second album on Ad Noiseam. The musical recipe has not changed that much in the course of time, only the musical spectrum has become wider and the production richer. Perhaps the industrial origins have been pushed further to the background, with a larger role assigned to breakbeats and contemporary electronica.

A lot happens at the rhythmic front, with a great variety in beats and detailed electronic sounds. Some tracks are very danceable, like the powerful technoid ‘Sense’. Besides there are many accessible songs to enjoy at home, with a lot of feeling and atmosphere. One of my favourites is the opener ‘Paper cut’ which has a nice melancholic string sound. This track is also present in a remix by Mad E.P. with some cool dark basses. Another lovely song is ’16 Fingers’ where dreamy beauty and crunchy electronics are in fine balance.

“Origin” may not be very surprising if you’re familiar with Detritus’ previous work, but it is a mature album with a very intense sound that will trigger all your senses.

Reutoff vs. Antlers Mulm – Kreuzung Eins

Here we have an interesting collaboration: Reutoff from Russia and Antlers Mulm from Germany, two acts which have convinced me in the past with high quality material. On this streamlined looking LP release both acts contribute an exclusive track, as well as remix two tracks of each other. To generalize the style of this record, you could describe it as ritual ambient music.

The A-side starts with two remixes of ‘Schau unseren Jubel’, taken from the Antlers Mulm MLP Grosser goldener Tag and given a special treatment by Reutoff. It is followed by the unreleased track ‘Kolomna’ by Reutoff. These tracks have that intangible sense of mystery the Russians are so good at, in the form of atmospheric and hypnotizing soundscapes. They combine electronic elements, voices, classical samples and acoustic sources, like metallic sounds and industrial rumblings. The overall mood is quite sad and melancholic. Only mix 2 of ‘Schau Unseren Jubel!’ is a more melodic, quite rhythmic cold electronic song, with repetitive vocals, reminding me of Polygon.

The other side contains two versions of from Reutoff’s ‘Die Sunden der Vater’ from the cd Gute Nacht, Berlin!, remixed by Antlers Mulm. The final track of the Lp is ‘Our destination’, a new Antlers Mulm creation. These tracks have a clearer electronic sound and contain more rhythmic elements, even approaching a martial style in the final track. Through the old-fashioned spoken vocals this tracks gets a nice nostalgic touch. Especially this side of the record is rather accessible and melodic.

The title indicates that there might be a sequel. I certainly wouldn’t mind a renewed collaboration of these two interesting projects.

Ich Wollte, Ich Könnte – Musique au mètre

Elitepop is the bold name of a new label from The Netherlands, which has not been erected for musical compromises. Therefore their first release is directly something special; a limited vinyl single with special packaging by Ich Wollte, Ich Könnte, a new side-project of Wermut. The concept for this single is original: they were inspired by so-called library music, also known as stock music, usually rather bland background music of which the makers remain anonymous.

Like Wermut, Ich Wollte, Ich Könnte draws heavily on analogue electronica equipment and influences from the heydays of minimal wave. But the new project nevertheless sounds different: the songs are less uptempo and melodic, but they are rather slow, mainly building up strange atmospheres. Apparently Ich Wollte, Ich Könnte also tries to refer to classic krautrock music and electronic pioneers like Tangerine Dream.

The record directly starts with soothing sounds of the instrumental ‘Höher als die Wolken’ which engulf you and which make your surroundings appear more pleasant. Clear, almost ethereal synth sounds are stretched out widely. After a while though the sounds loose their comforting feeling to an irresistible sense of melancholy. The cool female vocals in French on the highlight ‘Sternenrechteck’ sound rather mechanical, enhancing the feeling of isolation. You get the feeling of being trapped in endless corridors of a long-deserted office.

‘Des Traumes Sanfte Tasten’ is a slow and sad piece, with sort of declamated male vocals and a spacy sound, reminding me a bit of First Law. Though this track may be somewhat long, I can safely say that ‘Musique au mètre: A tribute to the electronic library music of the early 80’s’ is a wonderful nostalgic and melancholic adventure.

Architect – The Analysis Of Noise Trading

Daniel Meyer is well known as electronic musician in gothic, industrial and idm/electronica circles. It is no secret his (early) work was in the tradition of Skinny Puppy. This new record is what Skinny Puppy could have been today.

It is a perfect mix of dark and harsh rhythms and melodies and breaks and ambiance. Tracks like ‘Vectorize’, ‘Suicide Lake’ and ‘Ulverized Substance’ balance between dancefloor beats and melodies and abstract rhythms and sound structures.

With this new Architect record Daniel Meyer proves to be the true heir of Skinny Puppy. The Analysis Of Noise Trading is an original album that is interesting for anybody that likes the more abstract side of electronic music.

V/A – Polymorphic Piece 3/3

The third and last chapter in the Polymorphik series is a remix album. This time the record opens with two rather atmospheric pieces.
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V/A – Polymorphik: Piece 2/3

This is the second chapter in the breakcore / experimental electronics trilogy of the Belgian
PuZZling Records.

The record starts with a brilliant, moody and crazy piece by Mad EP. After that more broken music follows with amongst others a hammering tune by LFO Demon and the freaky track by Cdatakill.

Shore delivers some broken gabber beats. Luckily Somatic Responses takes a step back with a track somewhere between atmospheric electronics and twisted rhythms. Of course Kirdec serves a crazy and loud piece as always. ‘Polymorphic 2′ ends in a mayhem with Kaebin Yield.

This record is all about crazy breaks and broken beats. Not relaxing but still entertaining.

Ab Ovo – Empreintes

It is only a little more than a year ago that Le Temps Perdu was released. That record still is a brilliant piece of ambient music. The same tension and wonderful moods are to be found on this sequel Empreintes.

But, Ab Ovo succeeded again in producing an interesting album that has a face of its own. Only when listening more closely to Empreintes you will discover the subtle but very evident differences with their previous work.

Most clear are the more playful elements. Examples of this are ‘Night is my time’ and ‘Stella Maris’. Also at times Ab Ovo seems to sound more organic as before, like on ‘Les filels du vent’.
The most important thing to me is that Empreintes is just a very good album that will get you in a dreamlike state immediately.

Hecq – Bad Karma

Hecq is a relatively young musician. This is his third record and the second for Hymen. If you listen to his work you will hear Hecq becoming bit by bit more himself. His sound evolves into a unique style of his own along the way.

On this new record there are still hints of other idm / electronic music artists in his music (like for example Beefcake) but more and more his own style is being displayed. Listen for example to the tribal sounding rhythms on ‘Distract’ and ‘Scumdrum’. Also his clicks and moods on tracks like ‘The Fiend’ and Mourning Gates’ have something you have probably not heard a lot before.

Very nice are the two collaborations with L’Ombre and Architect. These artists fit very well into the world of sounds created by Hecq. Bad Karma is a record you need to hear if you like intelligent electronic music.

Hanin Elias -­ Future Noir

Hanin Elias is a name that will ring a bell by a lot of people. Once she was the front woman of Atari Teenage Riot. Now she is the label boss of Fatal Recordings and producer of electronic music with a punk attitude. The punk influences might not be heard very easily on this new record Future Noir .

Musically this album is rather relaxing with trip hop beats and dark lounge moods. From time to time more industrial sounding beats pop up (‘Future Noir’ and Burn’). But still the overall sound of the album is rather tranquil for a riot girl. Even further away from the typical punk idiom is the unplugged song Untouchable’.

Future Noir is an atypical punk record. But, still not a record for the masses.

Stelladrine – You’ll never see your world again

I have no objection to a great portion of humour in life, but when it comes to music and art in general, I get the shivers of funny attempts. The music can be enjoyable, but should I, as a listener, take it seriously? Or is it all a big joke?

Stelladrine is a project that chose for a humoristic angle in their release. The entire concept of ‘You’ll never see your world again’ is that of a bad science fiction movie from the fifties. Comic-book-style layout and comic-book-style drawings of space-men, ufo’s and space monsters beaming rays to earth. Deliberately cheesy spoken word samples, like ‘People of earth; we will take over your world, unless the leaders of our worlds can unite in friendship’ dominate the record.

Probably very funny but I’m not laughing. So let’s stick to the music. Spacious ambient- electronics is what you can expect from a project with this concept, and it is exactly what you get. But it isn’t bad at all. It’s wild (‘Astrosurfers of tomorrow’), weird, sometimes fast and sometimes even melodic (‘The future isn’t what it used to be’). Swirling electronic sounds, bleeps and high-low frequency shifts makes this record a strange but interesting experience.
I have to say the track ‘Cycloptic disintegrator’ (picture it) is one of the best tracks. Pretty minimal electronic glitch and cut up structures with a pounding sound throbbing in the background, suddenly accompanied by a slightly moderated guitar loop.

So the concept isn’t my piece o’ cake, but I bet there are some comic-book collectors and sci-fi adepts that will rejoice in the fact that there will be an attack of radioactive freaks. This record is for them.

V/A – Signs Sampler

This compilation, which came out about a half a year ago, intends to give an overview of the current EBM/electronic scene in (mainly) Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Ten projects from those countries are present, all unknown to me before. Two renowned guests were flown in to make the cd even more interesting: Flint Glass and Polygon. The nice-looking digipack with short bio’s in the booklet is released in an edition of 550 copies.

The listener is treated to over an hour of attractive electronic music. Don’t expect straightforward dance anthems or trancy future pop. Most acts play an atmospheric type of midtempo electro with in general a dark, melancholic sound. A good example is the first track by Anima Mundi, a one-man project by Ergo, who is also active on this cd as Vortex and Gaping Chasm. This stand-out track intelligently combines Gregorian choirs with multi-layered melodic synth sounds and catchy rhythms. I’m a bit reminded of early 90’s Zoth Ommog act Abscess. Samhain has a darker, brooding sound, with distorted whispered vocals, in line with slower Leaether Strip material.

Flint Glass has contributed a quite inaccessible track, with filmic sounds and hectic beats, that never seems to really go anywhere. Disharmony continues in a loud, beat-driven style, that after a while turns into a complex and dark EBM piece which strongly reminds me of Mentallo & the Fixer. Perhaps the most accessible piece is the instrumental ‘Illusions’ by Vortex, with a danceable technoid framework and a pseudo-ethnic Delerium/Enigma touch. Terminal State follows with an aggressive EBM piece, with typical harsh distorted vocals, though with a bit of an unclear melody.

Mindmap shows a new side to this cd, with a more etheral, dreamy style with female vocals. Gaping Chasm offers more old-fashioned EBM, with somewhat of an American ‘rivethead’ crossover style. Oxyd combines IDM beats with a ritual atmosphere, while Depressive Disorder mixes dark vocals with Gregorian chants and melancholic synths.

Tension operates somewhere between IDM and ambient, but doesn’t really hold my attention. The closing soundscape by Polygon is quite mysterious and chilling, of the usual high standard as I’ve come to expect from this German project. A nice ending to an interesting compilation with some promising new names to discover.

mp3 previews of the album.

Daemonia Nymphe – Remixed

Daemonia Nymphe from Thessaloniki, Greece, has a quite original style of music. They try to recreate the sounds of ancient Greece with the help of reproductions of ancient Greek instruments. Often the resulting music is quite ritual and esoteric, in songs about satyrs, gods, nymphs and other mythological creatures. For this latest release Daemonia Nymphe follows a different approach: their acoustic songs have been remixed by various artists who mainly use contemporary electronic equipment.

Often remix albums are a waste of time, but in this case the drastic reinterpretations work quite well. Mainly songs from Daemonia Nymphe’s self-titled 2002 album have been dealed with by nine acts, of which I only knew Von Magnet, Beefcake and Mimetic Mute). Most artists have managed to succesfully mold and shape the songs into their own musical spectrum.

A good example is the nice piece by Von Magnet, full of magic and mystery and with a nice groove. Beefcake has created an IDM-ish piece with a lot of atmosphere and tension. Nikodemos gives ‘Summoning Divine’ a dreampop / trip-hop treatment, while Peekay Tayloh gave ‘Hello Bacchus’ some hectic drum ‘n bass rhythms, which meld surprisingly well with the solemn Greek choirs. More electronic / IDM sounds come from Supermarket, Dani Joss and a lovely glitchy, dreamy piece by Basilis. Definite highlight for me is Mimetic Mute aka Mimetic Fake, whose tracks gets me in its spell with moody electronica and dark technoid beats.