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.

v/a: Music For Your Mind Vol​.​1 (Lobster Theremin, 2020)

July 18, 2020 at 3:19 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Music For Your Mind Vol​.​1

I think this is the last of the benefit comps I downloaded recently. This one’s from Lobster Theremin, and all profits are donated to Black Minds Matter. Haven’t delved too much into this label and its extended family, at least as of late, and the only artists I’m familiar with here are Borai, Denham Audio, and Tim Reaper, all of whom are some of the absolute finest producers making rave and jungle today. The first two collide rave elements with harder, garage-y beats, and Reaper’s is a slow burning but ecstatic jungle track filled with intricate breaks and contemplative synths. Route 8 & TRP’s “This Way” is another highlight, making a complex beat pattern go down smoothly. Mani Festo’s “The Fate of Us All” similarly resembles a sort of danceable IDM with a heartbreaking melody and poignant sample. Much more playful is the bloopy, choppy garage of Checan’s “BLAES”. Artists like L.O.T.S. and Slim Steve provide breaky beats and chill house atmospheres, while Night Foundation’s “Breathless” is an unsettling nocturnal tremor. Snow Bone’s “DYNA” is excellent futuristic rave overkill, and Zeno Amsel’s “Pertinent Negative” is hotwired electro-techno madness. Music for your mind, for sure, but only because we aren’t allowed back in clubs yet.

v/a: Hot Steel (трип, 2020)

July 17, 2020 at 6:04 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Hot Steel

Nina Kraviz’s трип (Trip Recordings) released this compilation on Juneteenth, donating all of its sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The album stemmed from a live stream which took place in May, in which artists submitted unreleased material, of any genre. The favorite tracks were signed, and issued on this album. Detroit’s First Lady, K-HAND, starts it off with “Aquatics”, a dramatic piece which sounds like the opening scene of a seabound thriller, filled with rushing tidal water and cyclical strings. There’s no telling where the release is going to head from there. LUCKER’s “Headache vs. Corona” is a tense jumble of fuzz-saturated breaks and early ’90s house stabs, managing to dance its way out of the muddle. Locked Groove dives into deep trance territory with “Intergalactic Surfer”, setting airy arpeggios and measured strings atop cruising beats. Hieroglyphic Being works his industrial house magic with the gorgeous keys, blown-out beats, and booming vocals of “Side 2 Side (Black Hands Version)”. Gesloten Cirkel demolishes the fourth wall (and maybe some of the ceiling) on “Fairness”, starting off with a snarky observer mocking the track he’s been working on, then adopting a scary Darth Vader-type voice and proclaiming “This is the best song ever made! If you can’t hear that, there’s something wrong with you!” before launching into some unruly techno pulverizing. Just as humorous, but in a much cuter, friendlier way, is Crush Converters’ Spanish-language, pogo-worthy synth-pop ode to Nina herself. Sebastian Lopez aka Flug and Voyager Solar System provide more deep-space transmissions (with Voyager’s being a bit fuzzier and trippier), while Baxter’s two-minute “Galore” begins as solemn ambient techno and ends up hyper-detailed, frizzy IDM. “Kreatur” by m.o.d.u.l. machine is a 94-second blitzkrieg of head-bashing hardcore with a vulnerable, pitched-up voice in the center. Nina’s own “x3” is a 9-minute odyssey of bouncy beats, vocoder samples, and antsy-trancey synths. This comp hasn’t received as much attention as other recent benefit releases (probably because of the ongoing backlash against Nina), but it’s certainly worth checking out, as it’s a quality selection of creativity from around the world.

v/a: Physically Sick 3 (Discwoman/Allergy Season, 2020)

July 16, 2020 at 7:12 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Physically Sick 3

At this point, Discwoman and Allergy Season’s Physically Sick compilation series is an institution within the underground club music world. They all feature exclusive tracks by dozens of artists shaping the scene, and they’re all vital reactions to the state of the world, while giving back to those in need. Proceeds from the newly released third volume go to Equality For Flatbush, which has been fighting racist police abuse and gentrification since 2013, and has been supplying Brooklyn residents with groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like the other volumes of the series, the tracks here provide a good mixture of innovation as well as nods to the legacy of club culture, which can be especially poignant now since clubbing is quickly turning into a distant memory and none of us know when or if we’ll ever be able to do it again. Kicking the compilation off is a track by Anz (a recent breakout star thanks to her absurdly good Invitation 2 Dance EP and a new 84-minute mix of original productions) which uses the deathless vocal from C’hantal’s “The Realm” (although it seems to still be a mystery who exactly the vocalist is and whatever happened to her). Also in familiar sample flipping mode, the mighty AceMo takes the sample best known from Lil Wayne’s “I Feel Like Dying” (originally from the 2003 song “Once” by Karma-Ann Swanepoel) and turns it into a darkside rave nightmare straight out of the mid-’90s. More playful are tracks like SHYBOI’s cheeky banger “Eat That” and MoMA Ready’s intricate, sorta post-dubstep (remember that?) “Portal Step”. Providing diversions from club rhythms are a few experimental tracks, including a typically soul-searing noise piece by Dreamcrusher, an abrasive fuzz convulsion from SYANIDE, and a glowing levitation from KMRU. CCL and AYA both elevate the pace from trippy moonwalk electro to something closer to drum’n’bass, and Savile also uses the more atmospheric end of d’n’b as a launch pad for a brighter future. Robert Aiki Aubrey Lower applies his modular synth wizardry to pulsating, forest-vibes techno. BEARCAT’s “SHRILL” is a skeletal alien dancehall riddim which sounds like it was made from the drum sounds of a Casio-grade keyboard, yet it bangs harder than a lot of high-definition electronics. Special Request’s “Wallabies” goes as hard as any of his recent club detonators, no surprise there. Olive T’s “What Comes After” is perhaps the most overtly political track here, with a monologue sample asking how this revolution is going to be sustained, over lush beats and electrifying guitars. DJ SWISHA (who mastered the comp) provides some paranoid sci-fi juke. Korea Town Acid’s “Body Clock” is one of the comp’s most pleasant surprises, building some twisted elastic rhythms and playful samples, and then setting it all into a chiptune-jungle frenzy. After a serious but hopeful midtempo track from Surgeon, DJ Python smooths everything out, although this is closer to his house side than the deep reggaeton he’s become known for.

v/a: Unbroken Dreams of Light (Blueberry Records, 2020)

July 14, 2020 at 8:16 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Unbroken Dreams of Light

FaltyDL’s Blueberry Records presents a meaty compilation featuring a mixture of legends and newbies, keeping with the label’s ethos since it was launched seven years ago. Like FaltyDL’s own music, there’s no one style that’s focused on, it’s all just creative, original electronic music, whether it be for the dancefloor or more reflective purposes. His own “Ruby Rod” is a gentle, citrus-tinged whirlpool of cyclical tones and breakbeats, sounding like jungle and lush but dense post-dubstep all at once. From the “gets” corner, there’s a slightly sinister acid collab between Todd Osborn and Luke Vibert, some absolutely killer oldskool rave pressure from Horsepower Productions, broken beat from Cousin Cockroach (Dego of 4Hero), and a woozy downtempo gem from µ-Ziq. Besides the big names, there’s some eye-openers from within Blueberry’s own stable. XGLARE follows up her crazily underrated record from 2 years ago with some complex avant-club head-trickery. Dasychira’s “Deadnettle” is profound and cartoonish at the same time, and Bénédicte’s “Softillusion” is similarly comforting yet spiked with pangs of ecstatic jubilation. Lastly, Tenant’s “New Life” is a fizzy, funky slice of skittering drum programming and acid frippery — ridiculously tight, actually.

v/a: HOA010 + HOA011 (HAUS of ALTR, 2020)

July 12, 2020 at 11:01 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: HOA010

This past Juneteenth, New York label HAUS of ALTR released a massive compilation focusing on “the future of Black electronic music”. The proceeds for HOA010 are split between three organizations (For The Gworls, Afrotectopia, Afrorack) and the artists themselves. This one looks huge just glancing at the track listing — 27 tracks, and lots of artists who have been blowing up the club world lately, including many artists who have been on Towhead RecordingsNew York Dance Music comps. AceMo and MoMA Ready are both well represented, delivering ecstatic diva rave as well as fun, bashy breaks with an Aaliyah sample cruising in the middle. L.I.E.S. alumni Bookworms delivers crunchy, polyrhythmic breaks with the distorted goodness of “Dehydration”. DJ SWISHA’s giddy “New Luv” is like juke and happy hardcore meeting on the dancefloor and unexpectedly falling in love with each other. James Bangura (recently on Vanity Press) impresses with his breaky, shifty “Same, But Different”. Continuing her victory lap from her groundbreaking album last year, Loraine James gets in reflective mode with “Now”, which is filled with refracted trap beats and scattered R&B vocals. Russell E.L. Butler proclaims “You Think We Ain’t Have To Go This Hard, But We Really Do”, but their skittering drum’n’bass isn’t so much hard as persistent, scrambling forth in a constant search for justice, acceptance, clarity, answers, meaning, really a great number of things. Speaker Music’s “The Stamp of Color” features a powerful speech by Salenta, telling you how every Black person you see walking down the street is a miracle. Plenty of lesser-knowns impress as well. Amal’s “Pyschopass” mixes interstellar melodies with hard, crushed breakbeats, sort of approximating intelligent jungle with much more of an emphasis on feeling than scientific calculation. Escaflowne’s “The Blenda” is an effervescent house track with its waving hands pointed straight at the sky at all times. BEARCAT’s “Emergency” shows that there’s other ways to construct a powerful house groove, with a constant whooshing, whirring sound and percussion which sounds like shakers, hand drums, and clinking dinner glasses. “Dreamscape” by DONIS is built on a classic house foundation, but a slightly more complex twist to the beat, and a bit of Detroit cityscape synth. Max Watts’ “Hesitancy” is a new mutation of the speaker-demolishing freight train techno which has been fueling Brooklyn raves since the dawn of humanity. Then at the end, TAH’s “Breathe” is a potent shot of high-octane hybrid club music for getting down in a factory.

v/a: HOA11

I got around to buying HOA010 on the most recent Bandcamp Friday at the beginning of this month (hopefully they’ll do more of these?) and as soon as I did I noticed that the label had also snuck out HOA11, so naturally I had to grab that one too. Much of the same cast reappears, starting with a burning jungle reflection from AceMo. Amal’s “Go!” is a heady space journey which tactfully deploys hard, banging beats, NRG-spiked breaks, and rocket power. AshTreJinkins’ “Not My Problem” also goes super hard, with gabber-y beats and frantic arpeggios crumbling into each other. DJ Autopay’s “More Femme, More Masc (It’s Pride Black Pride Mix)” is an anthemic 2020 club update of Nice & Smooth’s “Sometimes I Rhyme Slow”, with a big emphasis on its all-important interpolation of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car”. Escaflowne provides another highlight, with the tumbling hybrid jungle of “My Mind”. Huey Mnemonic’s “Respect My House (I-94 Mix)” is straight up classic-sounding acid house, with its mix title nodding to the highway connecting Detroit and Chicago (a road which happens to be right by my house). Other gems include MoMA Ready’s defiant “The High Cost of Living”, the jacking disco loops of Max Watts’ “Flowin”, trippy tunnel techno from James Bangura, and so much more.

v/a: Lost & Found Vol. 1 (Dark Entries, 2020)

July 9, 2020 at 6:55 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Lost & Found Vol. 1

For the most recent (and final? hopefully not) Bandcamp Friday, longtime TAIITB faves Dark Entries released Lost & Found Vol. 1, a collection of rare and unreleased tracks by ten of its artists. All proceeds go to the artists as well as Black Trans Youth Fund (which I just donated to in addition to buying the album, and I encourage you to do the same). Like much of the label’s recent output, this skews a lot closer to dance music (particularly acid house and analog techno) rather than post-punk and minimal wave, but there’s some of that too. Bézier’s “Fig” is racing, hi-NRG electro drama, then Bill Converse’s “Another Day” is a warm, fizzing bath of sparked-up pulsations. Billy Nightmare’s “106 Miles” is a fun, spooky travelogue filled with suspenseful organ and skittering beats. Borusiade follows her excellent recent album with another entrancing isolation ode. Doc Sleep’s tune is just sunny, day-cruising Detroit-esque techno and it’s beautiful. Group Rhoda resurface for the first time in years with the shadowy, curious “Neptune”, and a lost Detroit electro oddity is resurrected with Magnus II’s “Roctronic (Remix)”, pitting hard early-rap beats and space invader vocals with metal guitar chugging. The Maxx Mann track is a lo-fi synth pop gem and might be even better than the songs on the album that DE recently reissued. The Patrick Cowley track is just a short bit of drum machine covered in swirling effects, more a transition than anything else, but still worth including. Finally, Sepehr’s “Tribalism” is a tripped-out techno banger with dislocated voices flying at you from several angles. Due to both the pandemic as well as the world’s biggest lacquering plant burning down, Dark Entries has drastically reduced its release schedule this year, so until they’re back at something resembling their previous output, this is an absolute must for anyone who appreciates the label (and wants to support a worthy cause). It also might not be a bad time to explore anything the label has released during the past decade that you didn’t catch when it came out, since it’s all too easy to have lost track at some point.

v/a: Music in Support of Black Mental Health (2020)

July 8, 2020 at 5:45 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Music in Support of Black Mental Health

Several fantastic benefit compilations have appeared on Bandcamp recently, often for the days in which the site has been giving all of its proceeds to the artists/labels, or to charity, as on Juneteenth. This one was compiled by Mike Paradinas and Lara Rix-Martin, but curiously they didn’t brand it as an official Planet Mu release or mention it on the label’s website. The proceeds are split between five charities in the U.S. and the U.K., particularly ones that provide therapy for Black queer and trans people, and all of the Black artists on the compilation were compensated for their work. Most of the contributors are from the current Planet Mu family, with a few other techno, IDM, and experimental club artists making appearances. The release kicks off with an excerpt from a collaborative piece by Speaker Music, Ariel Valdez & Catalina Cavelight, with frantic, clattering beats underpinning a righteous speech about the commodification of Black culture and music; the phrase “Let’s make techno Black again!” is repeated several times. For further illumination, Speaker Music’s recent Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry is also recommended. Beyond that, John Frusciante goes surprisingly hard with his storming drill’n’bass composition “Lyng Shake”, possibly a preview of his forthcoming release on Venetian Snares’ Timesig. FaltyDL goes back in sentimental jungle mode, and µ-Ziq attempts to create “Hip House Breakcore”, which somehow never happened before. Vladislav Delay’s “isosusi” continues in the direction of his astounding new album Rakka, delivering a tsunami of scattered voices and manic, distorted percussive glitch. Jlin works her magic on a piece by composer Michael Vincent Waller, and Jana Rush presents the original version of “Divine”, one of the highlights from her still-astounding 2017 release Pariah. Tracks by artists such as Zora Jones & Sinjin Hawke and Kuedo aren’t too different than their usual output (I honestly thought the Kuedo track had already been released before, maybe it’s an alternate version?), but the Felix Lee track is surprisingly bleak and noisy compared to the sadboi trap stuff on his album; I’d call this “cloud noise”, maybe, and I’m down with it. Likewise, the Sami Baha track is a definite evolution from the mutated trap of his underrated 2018 album, sounding much warmer and closer to ecstatic. Bogdan Raczynski’s “Average Banger” (agreed on the second part) sounds straight off of Boku Mo Wakaran, and I couldn’t possibly have a problem with that. Much like his recent Momentary Glow, FARWARMTH’s “Onwards, Forever” is a thing of beauty, with church-like organs and voices manipulated as samples, constantly clashing into each other, then being freed through rhythm and hand claps. An extraordinary amount of excellent music for an important cause, do support if you haven’t already.

Danny Clay: Ocean Park (laaps, 2020)

July 6, 2020 at 7:15 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Danny Clay: Ocean Park

Danny Clay makes gorgeous, expansive music using seemingly any tools available, including toys and found objects. Ocean Park, the fourth release on laaps (a successor to eilean rec.), is an ambient chamber work which continuously ebbs and flows. It’s played by a string trio and a harmonium player, with Clay utilizing a music box, combs, turntables, and his own voice. Some parts of it are gently frayed as if it’s all being played through an old gramophone or a decaying tape reel, yet it’s largely not as lo-fi-sounding as you would expect. The flowing strings are soothing, and the scratchy static noises are prevalent, but they still let the cleaner elements of the music breathe. I can only imagine audiophile classical music purists listening to this and being thoroughly confused and/or annoyed, but that speaks to my sensibilities. Incredibly lovely, especially the end.

Pauline Oliveros and Alan Courtis: Telematic Concert LP (Spleencoffin, 2020)

July 2, 2020 at 7:01 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Pauline Oliveros and Alan Courtis: Telematic Concert LP

This is the first-time release of a 2009 concert recorded at the Deep Listening Institute’s Dream Festival in 2009, virtually reuniting Oliveros with Alan Courtis of Reynols. Oliveros appeared in person, while Courtis was projected on screen behind her, digitally beamed in from Buenos Aires. Even though Oliveros played accordion (and “expanded instrument system”), the resulting improvisation is a far cry from the drone work she usually created using the instruments, and perhaps closer to her groundbreaking early electronic compositions. But it’s still on another level than that. Courtis brings waves and bursts of guitar feedback and noises from other sources; sometimes it crashes against Oliveros’ accordion playing, or outright obscures it, and other times they ride together. While most of the album feels like a gradual push/pull, the last few minutes alternate between eruptions of noise and stiff silence, taking the soundclash in its wildest directions.

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