Sunday, March 18, 2018

I Can't Understand - Ramin (Planet Core)

Skoven EP - Ohm & Kvadrant (AE Recordings)

Title: Skoven EP
Artist: Ohm & Kvadrant
Label: AE Records
Cat Number: AE07
Genre: Techno

1: Rold
2: Grib
3: Hvidding
4: Hvidding (Octal Industries Remix)

This one creeps up on you, and hits the sweet spot between the beats and the insubstantial, where in some cases a lateral line of texture is detected, in others there is a more concrete foundation. All original versions on this release toy with the idea that syncopation is fluctuation, inasmuch as the constant thump on show modulates itself considerably within its own nexus and, self-contained, exhibits a remarkable range of character. The remix comes across as replicated respiratory failure, functioning as it does, with a much more pronounced sense of  abstraction.

Decay EP - Thor (Thule Records)

Title: Decay EP
Artist: Thor
Label: Thule
Cat Number: THL024
Genre: Techno

A1: Insanity Dub
A2: Rusty Flashback
B1: Garden Of Corrosion
B2: Pepper Jones

One of the best recent comebacks, political, sporting or otherwise, has been that of Thule. It’s initial contribution to techno, particularly that of the dub-tinged variety, was such a seminal one that its absence was hardly noted. Their golden age, from the mid nineties to early noughties, spanned by a cluster of faultless releases encapsulated everything that is good about the genre, while still managing to keep one eye on the dance floor; brownie points also for coming from Iceland, whose ambience infused the music to give it an otherworldly, glacial dimension.

With all that in mind, it’s worth noting that this crop of recent releases has reinforced Thule’s credentials further. And, as well as giving its artists a new lease of life, served to remind those laboring under the misapprehension that dub techno is just for the head, that there’s life in the old dog yet. Thor was there at the beginning, but only has one release each, on Thule and its sub-label AE. This EP could have been made back at the label’s inception. However, the fact that it’s coming out now and sounds as indispensable as everything else on the label means that there’s always room for second acts in dub techno.

Monday, March 12, 2018

River - Mary Yalex (Kann)

Title: River
Artist: Mary Yalex
Label: Kann
Cat Number: KANN34
Genre: Ambient/Deep House

1: Metallic Elements
2: Night Bus
3: July (Part ll)
4: River
5: Stairway To The Stars

A nice EP, which rises in ‘Metallic Elements’ and the title track, and rests during the others, which are bursting with contrasting tones, each one, a minute observation on mood and environment. It’s an evocative piece of work which shimmers throughout, but saves its finest moment for when it puts its foot down. ‘River’ does this in a masterful way, recalling the best of trance and timing its step to be there when the sun rises.

Scrambled Thoughts Of The Absolutely Bleeding Obvious

Is free music a curse? I remember when there was nothing I wanted more than to receive it. Starting my radio show, ‘Machines Are Funky’ back on 209 Radio Cambridge in September 2004 opened the floodgates, and I was like a pig in shit. The radio show was the reason I started this blog and, even though I regretfully stopped doing the show in 2010, these pages remain. Of course ‘Thee Kaleidoscopic Rebellion’ picked up, to an extent, were ‘Machines . . . ‘ left off in 2012, but was brought to an abrupt end in 2015.

So how did free music impact on these shows, and on myself? Not only did I receive free music but I also promoted it by playing it, as all DJs do. The playing, however, is the last troublesome part as you can only fit in a finite amount in one show and the selection process must be seen to be effective. This was never a real issue. It’s the hours and hours though, listening to shite in order to find something wonderful that I’ll never get back. I say this not to denigrate the efforts of those who spend many hours, painfully honing their musical visions into something worthwhile and original, rather to reproach myself for not catching on sooner. Also, to those without imagination and the overly formulaic, it’s your output which goes to the charity shop first.

As I got older and wiser I built my shows almost entirely around that which I’d bought myself. Wanting a return of sorts on my investment I figured money only well spent if I actually gave these tunes a proper airing. The electronic music world is a strange one, being an almost constant rehash of various eras with small flourishes which are often enough to enable a track, not just to stand out but to usher in a new movement. This is the reality of the situation, not necessarily a criticism. We are all complicit. The saving grace is, of course, the DJ, the more creative the better, but not always the best. This sounds contradictory so let me elaborate. There is no substitute for good music, likewise knowledge. A great DJ will have you dancing to stuff you don’t know you like. Also, style. Some play tracks for (almost) their full length, some cut and play them in portions. Some do the talking, some let the music do it. It really shouldn’t make a great deal of difference to whoever is listening, unless said selector is being relentlessly scrutinized. What comes out of the speakers is always a representation of some form of thought process. It’s clear, though, that some are worth listening to more than others, and this isn’t a situation reached overnight.

Whatever the case, we owe it to those who play the music to give them the benefit of the doubt sometimes. True, some of them can’t mix cement, while the others have got no relationship with what they play. The feeling isn’t there, and this is a distinct thing, irrespective of the type music being played, not the music being played. During the broadcasting of ‘Thee Kaleidoscopic Rebellion’ it became more and more about the music fitting the mood of the late hour. Even though the show was supposed to be an electronic one, we would often go beyond this, and become more abstract. Anyone casually tuning in late on a Saturday night would hopefully have any expectations passively usurped. It kept things interesting, however. We were playing for ourselves above all, and if it was interesting to others, great. If not, so what?

All of which sounds arrogant, but the alternative is much worse. It’s sonic homogenization by stealth. We’re already living under its kosh, and always will be as long as we continue to let our time be taken up by an inability to make our own choices. I like to think that whatever music I play that I haven’t bought it myself is being tacitly promoted. You can only do this so much when it’s free, unless it’s always something you would have bought anyway. The continuous search for feedback is understandable, but no one owes anyone anything except to listen without prejudice if they have the time and inclination.

Pathway - Eric Maltz (Flower Unit)

Title: Pathway
Artist: Eric Maltz
Label: Flower Myth
Cat Number: FM001
Genre: Techno

A1: Pathway
A2: Ah-Shu-De-Ou
B1: Line Through

This is Eric Maltz’s first release since he became the only artist besides Levon Vincent to record on Novel Sound, and from this it’s easy to see why. ‘Pathway’ sounds like Vincent in his pomp, a driving bass, offset by rigorous, clapping percussive and off-key synth notes backed by cosmic swirls. The other two tracks are more subtle: ‘Ah-Shu-De-Ou’ plays with vocal tones pushed through a mixer which harmonise and polyphonically align, becoming the beat. ‘Line Through’ is the releases mellow moment, fluffy and diaphanous. Some nice tones in there, and a contrast to what went before.