Ron Zakrin: Wait for Tomorrow (Equal Recordings, 2020)

August 9, 2020 at 1:24 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Ron Zakrin: Wait for Tomorrow

Detroit painter and musician follows 2017’s One in a Million with a more sprawling set of retro-futuristic electro and techno-pop tracks. First and foremost, this album is worth hearing because Zakrin wrote a bouncy italo-disco style song about BurgerTime, which might be the best oldschool arcade game ever made. Not the easiest, that’s for sure, but absolutely one of the funnest, and the song matches the silliness and jovial spirit of the game. Aside from that, we have songs like “Storm the Ramparts” which are kind of tough and militant but also kind of playful. Like it’s a bit too cartoonish to really feel threatened by. And then others like “Cyber Boulevard” and “Beyond the Milkyway” are just fun and delightful space disco mini-journeys. “Slow Command” and “Cosmic Swamp Ass” are slower and much lengthier, and require more patience, but they both travel to some distant, fascinating worlds. Then at the end of it all, he channels Skint-style big beat with the chunky, lo-bit breakbeat-driven kung fu crime caper “Revenge”.

Renegade Android: Downtown (D-Trash, 2020)

August 8, 2020 at 2:58 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Renegade Android: Downtown

Renegade Android has been releasing IDM/breakcore hybrids on various netlabels since the late ’90s, and his new album finds him returning to D-Trash, which put out his first album in 1999. The tracks are all short and filled with glitchy/grindy beats and simple innocent/angry melodies, and they all refreshingly sound cut from the cloth of breakcore’s original lo-bit Amiga aesthetic rather than the more hi-definition direction some of the genre’s bigger names have gone in. No giant, glowing modular systems here. Instead, there’s fast, twitchy hyper-jigs like “Flailing Extremities”, which requires way too much caffeine to accurately dance to, but has a kind of cute melody behind it. “Malfunctioned Robby Robot” does in fact sound like something a little plastic droid with worn-out, defective circuits would try to dance to. “Obvious Threat” has some of the biggest, most destructive breaks here, and it’s one of the funnest tracks. “Swords and Daggers” is even more massive, and easily the most ambitious production on the album. Simply jaw-dropping. The album ends with a remix by Venetian Snares, but it doesn’t come close to overshadowing the preceding tracks, it’s more of a brief ambient coda, riddled with thin, chattering noise textures which end up devouring the track at the end.

Octavcat: Arbourne (VLSI Records, 2020)

August 7, 2020 at 6:06 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Octavcat: Arbourne

Mysterious U.K. artist Octavcat isn’t a new name by any means (Discogs lists several releases dating back to 2003) but this is my first exposure to their work. It’s the type of braindance which would be at home on post-Rephlex labels like Central Processing Unit, constructing sturdy electro beats and spiking them with acid-tinged melodies. Some of it gets weirder, with Autechre glitches riddling the trippy “Otheracid”, and while “Charcoal” seems to walk the line between danceable and chillable, there’s still some remote flashes of noisy fury. “Wrong’n'” has funny, ear-tickling synths wibbling atop its smooth-Drexciya beats, and “Polygonpad” is closer to trip-hop, with vocoders over crunchy midtempo beats (yeah, it does sound a bit like BoC). Mostly slick and not too hard-edged, this sounds like it was made for cruising through a virtual neon galaxy.

Philip D Kick: As We Continue 12″ EP (Astrophonica, 2020)

August 4, 2020 at 5:44 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Philip D Kick: As We Continue 12″ EP

Somehow only the second vinyl release from Om Unit’s Philip D Kick alias, As We Continue adds a bit more oldschool techno to the project’s juke/jungle fusion. “Drips” is a choppy, wobbly treat which slightly nods to the Prodigy, and “160909313” combines a whole bunch of my favorite things in one track, ramping Detroit techno up to juke tempo without resembling ghettotech. “Funk 160” does much the same thing to smooth, mid-’90s drum’n’bass, like Adam F or Wax Doctor, but with some unexpected frizziness thrown in as the track winds on. “Summer Moods” sounds like a junglistic version of DJ Rashad at his most uplifting, and would be an easy winner at any parties we would normally be enjoying this season. After the more yearning “The Riviera”, “Clouds” seems to stare up at the vast, blue sky and summon an uncountable number of unspoken questions, with little more than an electro-ish beat, drifting pads, and minimal melodies.

River Spirit: Constant Lullaby (self-released, 2020)

August 3, 2020 at 6:27 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

River Spirit: Constant Lullaby

Detroit trio River Spirit follow up last year’s excellent Me I Fall full-length with the shorter, more intimate Constant Lullaby. While 2018’s EP 2 flirted with trip-hop and electro-pop, and Me I Fall had some of the group’s jazziest, most sophisticated material, this one feels a bit more direct, even with a few brief, abstract interludes. “Constant Lullaby” has scratchy alt-rock guitars which drive the lonesome refrain “and it ain’t no party without you”. After the moody instrumental “Deeper Fantasy”, which features dark shades of bells behind its tricky guitar and drum rhythm, “Let It All Go” is a more easygoing but still slightly anxious ode to a promised rendezvous. The dreamy sway of “Don’t Look Back” segues into “Agency”, which has a similar mood but more tightly wound vocals, and “Crooked Wonder” has more of a contrast between moments which flow with release and choppier, more aggressive elements. Tapes have yet to ship out, but this fine release is available to stream now.

v/a: Fugitive Pieces (Seagrave, 2020)

August 1, 2020 at 12:44 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Fugitive Pieces

Seagrave has a pretty astonishing catalog of breaks, algorave, IDM, grime, lo-fi, post-punk weirdness, and much more. This new 10-track comp doesn’t appear to have any particular theme, it’s just creative material from across the label’s roster and beyond. Etch starts things off splendidly with some steady but choppy jungle breaks and bumping bass. Brain Rays & Quiet (easily the label’s duo to watch right now) have some fun making a sort of atmospheric ghettotech track out of a CupcakKe sample. Viennese legend Stereotyp goes hard with a tough ragga-grime riddim, and newcomer Drumskull (review of his new album forthcoming) references oldskool breakbeat hardcore tropes but does something entirely different with them; it’s punchier, more angular, ruffer. Ice_Eyes’ remarkable “Silk01d” is a jagged, prismatic futurescape which seems like it’s crushing itself, yet it’s still sort of funky and almost melodic. Maybe those aren’t really the best ways to describe it, but it does the mutilated Autechre glitch thing while still sounding like it’s a breathing creature. Under-recognized glitch-breaks veteran ScanOne comes correct with the tense but jumpy “Breeze”. The mysterious Sentry resurrects an offbeat, kind of antsy techno gem from an obscure 12″ released by a Slovakian label 4 years ago. The rest of the tracks drift away from breaks and club sounds to more abstract lo-fi textures. Warp alumni REQ surrounds samples about robot superheroes (“We need more power! We must bring safety to the universe!”) with clanky, fizzing beats and bubbles, and Ekoplekz works his usual radiophonic industrial dub magic. The comp ends with brooding selection from SDEM, whose recent double cassette on the label follows releases on Opal Tapes and CPU last year.

Kentaro Minoura: 今戸焼 (Primordial Void, 2020)

July 28, 2020 at 5:40 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Kentaro Minoura: 今戸焼

Kentaro Minoura seems to be far more prolific as a visual artist than a musician; he’s had dozens of exhibitions of his work since 2006, and has published several books. His fourth album mainly consists of heavy rhythmic studies, with the first track focusing entirely on craggy drum machine tones, then the next few venturing into distorted lo-fi techno. After the grinding, festering dystopia of “言問橋”, “吾妻橋” is pure panic-zone acid terror, calling like an alarm from inside a reactor. Then “イチカワヤ” is a glorious 13-minute wooze-fest that absolutely bumps, getting grander and more smeared by the minute. The last three tracks are much shorter (the bristling “駒形橋” is only 13 seconds), and the ending feels like an energy-depleted lament compared to the danger-filled antics of the earlier ones. Really unique, uncommon sounds and inventive beat design here.

Evicshen: Hair Birth (American Dreams, 2020)

July 21, 2020 at 6:53 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Evicshen: Hair Birth

I’m only reviewing a digital promo of this, but the now sold-out special edition included a speaker cover, in the form of a coil which plays when connected to an amplifier and placed in front of a magnet. (A few of the covers are still available, but without an amp). The artist, Victoria Shen, used to work for Jessica Rylan’s Flower Electronics, and she created the LP by recording Buchla 100 and Serge modular synths at Harvard, then editing the recordings together. The results are crafted like academic electronic compositions, but sound as visceral as a junky basement noise session. “Under the Stall Door” is 8 minutes of righteous thrashing which occasionally erupts into high-pitched screeing feedback, then plunges back into low rumbling and quaking or harsh crushing. “Funhouse Mirror Stage” scrambles glitchy modular tones and dissolves them in molten lava, while “Lissjous” seems to imply a brittle, trampled-over rhythm. “Fever Pitch” is fizzier, and even closer to a stammering, frenzied rhythm. The whole album just sounds so LIVE, even though it’s the result of countless hours of studio sessions, and I hope I get the opportunity to see this artist perform someday.

Matthewdavid’s Mindflight: Care Tracts (Leaving Records, 2020)

July 20, 2020 at 6:05 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Matthewdavid’s Mindflight: Care Tracts

Returning to his healing music project, Leaving Records founder Matthewdavid produces three 10-minute pieces designed to bring purely positive energy. Adorned with two cute dolphins on the cover and sounding just as friendly, the album spirals in an unhurried flow, shimmering like a vast, peaceful pool that cleanses and keeps you calmly afloat. Curiously, though, the pieces end with the tape drastically being slowed down or sped up, putting a definite stop to periods of relaxation which could seemingly on perpetually. All three tracts serve different purposes and have different characteristics. “Tract of Hidden Animalia” is awash with synthetic chirps and flutters, while “Tract of Gentle Healing” is almost aggressively rejuvenating, and “Tract of Bell & Flute Magic” is a playful acoustic incantation set atop a briskly flowing stream.

G.S. Sultan: music for a living water (Orange Milk, 2020)

July 19, 2020 at 11:40 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

G.S. Sultan: music for a living water

Roy Werner writes custom Max/MSP software and makes semi-generative compositions which flow between digital and organic textures. Opening with rushing water and fluttering bird wings, music for a living water weaves melty vocals, which sometimes sound like they’re being manipulated on a turntable, with vibraphone-like melodies and subtle glitches and buzzes. It’s too _together_ to merely sound like an audio collage, but it still has an easy, surreal drift to it. It’s definitely more easygoing and pleasant than some of the more future-shocked Orange Milk releases, but there’s also moments that tip into the realm of the absurd, like when several layers of vocals of various pitches collate into a heavy, quavering blanket mass during “nx nox”. The last 2 tracks are weird co-minglings of new age choral R&B, wrapping several shades of vocals around a ticking music box flow.

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