Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Ambient 7

Just discovered Eno's Shutov Assembly from 1992, apparently his 'Ambient 7'. What happened to 5 and 6? Anyway, it's wonderful, exactly what my sleep-deprived nerves need right now. Dedicated to Russian artist Sergei Shutov, of which the image above resemble Picabia's multiple image paitings.

The music is reminiscent of a stripped back On Land, with fewer threatening gestures, although threat never seems far away.

Highlight is the 16 minute 'Ikebukuro' - props to Eno for finding such beauty in that rat infested consumer cesspit, although the slow-motion flapping of wings could represent the crows that come out in the early hours to eat the shit the rats left behind.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

100% Silk

The charming Amanda Brown at 100% Silk has kindly linked to my $2,000 Leaking Oil Mix, which I thought she might enjoy after listening to a slew of Silk records I bought. They're doozies (the Silk records), a breath of fresh air in the often mirthless world of contemporary house music. Someone likened Silk productions to Omar-S meeting Mathematics, but they're warmer and more approachable than even that enticing description suggests.

I've already spoken highly of Octa Octa's 'I'm Trying', but the title track 'Let Me See You'

OCTO OCTA - HIGH REFLECTION teaser from 100% Silk on Vimeo.

... and 'High Reflection' are also tops

Maria Minerva showcases the mustier Not Not Fun side:

And Ital seems to be making the greatest strides into the wider dance music world, with Wire and LWE reviews, which when you hear these is no surprise

And with videos like this he'll keep the hypnagogs happy

Italo's clearly an influence, and not just on Ital, and this clip he highlighted is utterly supoib. It also shows just how little we've progressed, but then why should we need to?

At 2008's Dissonanze festival I shared a cab with Alexander Robotnik and Daniele Baldelli (!) after they finished killing it on the rooftop stage overlooking Rome. I took the front seat and listened to them talk about how they play Italo to get the ladies, and how minimal doesn't so they don't like it. Fair enough - here's a nod to these masters

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Country Sewing

Spent the other night playing Country & Western records while the missus sewed some clothes for the lil' 'uns, it seemed an appropriate soundtrack. So, here is 'Country Sewing' - a bit over an hour of C&W gold from the fifties, sixties and seventies. Tracklist to come, but expect the usual suspects: George Jones, Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner, Wanda Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn... Songs are short, so there's plenty in there.

C&W is love or hate music, but skeptics could learn a thing or two from prime country production. There's a great sense of stereo space to these recordings, and a crispness brought about by an economic use of instrumentation. The lyrics are all cliched, but what cliches! Plus, what genre today isn't completely reliant on cliche. I might be spreading myself thin with this mix, but I don't care - I'm proud to like both kinds of music.

Download: Country Sewing

Here's some of what you'll find:

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

As We Rock On, and on, and on...

Reading about Andres' Michael Jackson deep house edits got me very excited, but the results are so deep house-lite it's a blatant denial of all the seething emotion, sweat and invention present in the originals. As basic deep house tools they're pleasant and functional and chilled as the tamest examples of the genre demand, but their basis in the Jones/Jackson originals is baffling.

I was hoping to get my daughter excited by these babies, but she'll certainly be bored and like me disappointed. How much - of everything, audible and beyond - has been lost from 'Rock With You' to 'As We Rock On'? Furthermore, with its slow sensual pace, wispy synth solos and subdued strings, wasn't 'Rock with You' a kind of dreamy proto-deep house anyway?

As we rock on indeed, comatose, numb, too jaded by overexposure to everything to reach those previous peaks of excitement or, heck, ecstasy. Andres' spin on 'Blame it on the Boogie' is marginally better, more stuttered and distanced, but it too suffers from the same ills.

Perhaps Andres is telling us something with these, critiquing current music malaise, that the Jones/Jackson pop pinnacle of Off The Wall and Thriller can never be equalled, let alone topped, and it's all mourning from here. And if so, deep house is the language to use for this, mired within a dance music structure of resignation, defeat and depression, the music actually most well suited to Jackon's 'Thriller' zombie dance. I doubt it though, this sounds too cosily genrefied, too subservient, in thrall even, to the laziest of deep house tropes.

Monday, 19 September 2011

House House House

Forgetting novelty for a moment here's some great newish House:

Kassem Mosse's return to Nonplus features the scorching A-side 'Enoha' alongside three of his more experimental rhythmic cuts. Structure and tones are reminiscent of the Omar-S-impressing '578' but 'Enoha' is more reduced and downbeat

Mark Ernestus refines and polishes Basic Channels linear drive on his Shangaan remix for Honest Jon's

Slow squelchy throb from Gunnar Jonsson of Kontra Musik Records

UK Funky diehards Funkystepz keep the flag flying with 'Face Off', four kooky but eminently workable tracks

'Get Down' is your standard high-quality looped disco flange mantra from Kyle Hall, of which the non-youtubed B-Side 'Xero' is more interesting, a gorgeously sloppy instrumental chugger which keeps dying, then reviving, dying, reviving...

I've spoken of my fondness for Jared Wilson's 'Girl I'm Waiting' before but the A-Side is also a winner, more primitive and Chicago obsessed but also more gnarled and nasty

Mind Bomb beat me to the punch with praise for 100% Silk (and Johnny Turncoat dubstep traitors) but more praise is deserving. I'd previously felt ambivalent about the label's more Not Not Fun leaning releases, those cloaked in delay and fuzz, but the latest by Octa Octa is crisp and incredible, all four tracks utter killers. 'I'm Trying' is the winner

... which samples Amerie's mindblowing '1 Thing', a hit at a cheesy New Years Eve party I once held

Earlier came Ital's incredible 'Queens'

... and Magic Touch with the lovely rough-hewn Chicago of 'Clubhouse'

I could go on...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Sonic Fatigue and the Craving for Clarity

As many commentators have cautioned, (myself included), contemporary digital listening practices can be hazardous to your musical health. Recent voracious downloading of much intriguing youthful new music has resulted in intense aural fatigue, and an inability to process complete recordings - even single tracks. I'd say that it's the process that's chiefly responsible, overenthusiastic press hype and promo is partly to blame, but the music itself is responsible for its own effects.

Consequently I'm suffering an exhaustion with all things fresh, young and hip - synths, arpeggios, delay, haze, pastiche, irony, the know-it-all jaded world-weariness pervading Altered Zones; all the clued-up wide-arc influence and diverse underground sampladelica with the ceaseless winking chummy irony, and the get-out-of-jail-free card of crackle, surface noise and washed out shoegaze moire obscuring all obscure reference and contemporising all dated source material... it's made me feel tired, and old. The latter particularly in this old-man need craving for cleaner, purer, and more earnest music. And this is what's hit the spot:

Bernard Gunther: Time Dreaming Itself (Trente Oisseaux)
Pristine lowercase drones. Nothing on youtube but this is comparable:

Morton Feldman: Palais de Mari
Just piano, and silence.

Buck Owens: Hello Trouble
Shimmering Bakersfield country. Ironic too but not arrogant - speaks to its audience, not down to them. And such an ordered, finished product.

But there's only so much pleasure to be had in historic cleanliness. I'll get to grips with what the kids are up to and speak of modern things later...

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


Bellows make some of the filthiest music around. Grime in the lowercase sense: grey, murky, dusty muck - utterly gorgeous.

The project of Giuseppe Ielasi, whose Stunt recordings explored similar terrain, and Nicola Ratti, Bellows music is made by manually cutting and manipulating vinyl, capturing this live on a Revox tape recorder - like Thomas Brinkmann's Klick meeting Philip Jeck, with more grit.

Their LP originally came out on Alga Marghen, the perfect home - they don't even have a website!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Peter Kersten Appreciation

The previous post on Lawrence's Timeless was not intended as a criticism of the work itself or of his mixing and selection, both of which were rather good, but of the medium itself. Mix CDs are dead, time to shovel on the dirt, Timeless it 'aint.

The twelve inch vinyl record however lives on, and stronger than it's been in a long while. Since wifey and I have started our exclusive listening practice I've been buying more of it, and am especially keen on the archival mystery and bargains to be had in secondhand shops. Beyond the classical dregs you can occasionally find cheapish house and techno nowadays, a sure sign that it's grown old and crusty. Nothing looks worse than old dated house and techno records (aside from progressive house and trance ones, and Nana Mouskouri), but the good stuff still looks good, and its interesting what has aged gracefully (and what hasn't).

Peter Kersten's Sten alias offered a harder, more Detroit angled techno version of the Lawrence sound, more bleeps and less chimes and crackle, but retains the same downbeat gloom. I reviewed his Essence LP for RA some moons ago and was largely unimpressed, but I've found a couple of 12"s for $5 or less and they're great. A slightly dated mnml structure but the drums are far from. 'Sponk' is quite agressive, with gruff Auftrieb-esque pulses along with the typical sinuous linearity:

Also picked up Restless/Frost:

His best track however is 'Faces' from 2004's badly titled and patchy Sender comp, Receiving Data... Ah It's Coming!, a dark pseudo acid Detroit stomper:

I thought that was it for Sten, but he returns on the forthcoming Laid release Never As Always with two dubs of Lawrence's 'Rise', a staple of recent Carsten Jost sets.

But Lawrence has really been pumping out the quality of late, for Smallville, Laid, Dial and Mule Electronic, my pick of which is 'Treacle Mine' from Dial's 2010, with that staggered cascading thirds offbeat thing going:

Lawrence tracks, and indeed much of the Hamburg bunch, epitomise the kind of subdued, downbeat and cosy deep house I love right now, a kind of comforting sound, almost ambient, files nicely alongside Terre.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Timeliness of Mix CDs

Lawrence of Hamburg has released a mix CD - yup - on Sven "a-pill-an-hour-keeps-Sven-at-full-power" Vath's Cocoon label. Entitled Timeless and filled with plenty of classics (Aril Brikha, Delano Smith, Plaid) and fresh(ish) contributions from Lawrence's Dial/Laid/Smallville chums (Isolee, Pigon, Smallpeople and Rau), it's a hark back to the glory days of mix CDs, particularly those released by Kompakt.

The title alone is more than a subtle nod to Michael Mayer's timeless mix Immer ('Always'), and the tracklist, mood and pace all recall mix CDs by Mayer, Tobias Thomas and Triple R. Most of the tracks are great, mixing is tight, and the flow effortless, but why does it sound so boring? There's something constrained, preordained and squashed about it, such that it sounds almost lifeless. Maybe this is the only way forward for mix CDs, a closed, flat, tightly mastered product, based closely on the medium's turn-of-the-century prime. How else can they compete with podcasts?

That said it's probably the sort of mix I dream of making, given the number of tracks off it I own, but mine 'come alive' with all that sloppy mixing, dirty records and hiss.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


As a corrective to the disarmingly soothing tones of Kyle Bobby Dunn I felt the need to point to a gutsier example of contemporary electronic music that has recently impressed, baffled, and frightened, but mostly baffled.

Florian Hecker's Speculative Solution sonically explores ideas expressed in current philosophical 'movement' speculative realism. I'm not sure how well the keening shards and pointillist scatter of Hecker's crisp computer noise is intended to demonstrate speculative realism's theories, whether its a hoax, whether a hoax IS an expression of speculative realism, or some combination of the above. The concepts underlying speculative realism are summarised by Mark Fisher as a reaction against the 'naïve realism' dominating current continental philosophical thought, 'the view that the world is just as it appears to us'. Fisher goes further here for Frieze, discussing some of speculative realism's major strands in a report from the 2009 ‘Speculative Realism and Speculative Materialism’ conference in Bristol.

Instead, the speculative realists each opened up a weird world, foreign to human experience and commonsense. Returning to Descartes, Meillassoux maintained that the real is what can be rendered as mathematical symbols. Harman’s ‘object-oriented metaphysics’... argued that the world is made up of ‘entities with specific qualities, autonomous from us and from each other’; Grant’s ‘nature philosophy’... sees nature as a ceaselessly productive machine, throwing out particular bodies only as the visible side effect of a perpetual, invisible mutation; while Brassier’s pulverising equivalence of scientific naturalism with nihilism was made in Nihil Unbound(2007)

Whether you examine the music in relation to these ideas or otherwise (which chimes with aspects of speculative realism's cold indifference), there's plenty here to intrigue, and it's a welcome alternative to all that youthful impulsive synth jizz flooding the ether. For the most part this is cold, dissonant, rapidly fluctuating sheets / pricks / blocks of sound, united by an unfeeling and chaotically-controlled hand. What initially surprises is the clearly ordered repetition that springs up, most notably in 'Octave Chronics', perhaps explained by the following in the notes:

With ‘Speculative Solution’ Hecker proposes that the concepts of absolute contingency and hyperchaos offer a rigorous new alternative to the employment of chance and randomness in avant-garde composition.

Sample: Octave Chronics

This is a powerful piece, and its luminous immediacy offers a welcome hook after the preceding apparent disorder. Here Hecker sounds like Mark Fell's Multistability, which further makes it possible to hear Hecker alongside contemporary electronic noisemakers like Keith Fullterton Whitman or even Surgeon. Here how it fits within this context on snd's mix for FACT.

Good review of Speculative Solution for Braiwashed here and check out samples below, and scour the internet for more on the thoughts behind it.

Sample: Speculative Solution 1 (excerpt 1)

Sample: Speculative Solution 1 (excerpt 2)

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Out on a Limb, 2

I've only got two albums to speak highly of for 2011, for now anyways, as I realise I've spent most of my time really enjoying old classical vinyl (yawn), polished genre music or reissues. The year's been great for the latter - John Beltran's Ambient Selections, Soul Jazz's Mysteron Killer Sounds, <i>Gene Hunt Presents Chicago Dance Tracks, with plenty of good House genre work from Workshop, Omar-S, Roman Flugel, Morphosis and plenty others. But adventure is hard to do, which is why these impressed:

Surgeon: Breaking the Frame
Much contemporary techno leaves me cold, particularly when heard in non-club contexts (all my listening these days). Its general lack of melody and reliance on more physical properties - volume, textural density and sheer thrust - make for lackluster listening through headphones. But Surgeon's latest was astounding, particularly the beatless tracks - my focus here. By channeling the surge of Whitehouse Noise and Alice Coltrane Free-Jazz Spirituality into vast, multilayered throbs Surgeon has created a kind of rhythm-less dance music, and proposed a new(ish) direction for techno producers/DJs to explore. Like much of the zeitgeist it works by ferreting about with existing music (A Coltrane, Whitehouse) but the result in tracks like 'Presence' and 'We Are Already Here' remains firmly Techno despite the absence of drums. Mind Bomb noticed something peculiar about the physical record too:
One is that the vinyl version beginsinside the run-in groove, especially for the techno track “The Power of Doubt” suggesting perhaps that it has “broken the frame” as it exists outside the physical space of the record' is interesting here too.

Kyle Bobby Dunn: Ways of Meaning
This is like the polar opposite of Surgeon, a record so soft and wispy as to have almost no momentum nor substance. Kyle Bobby Dunn works in vapour, gorgeous scented mist on Ways of Meaning, an album so amorphous and shamelessly pretty it feels unnatural in 2011. Nothing structurally new here, tones mostly taken from Eno's Apollo soundtracks, but the sustained cotton wool nebulousness, and Dunn's ability to keep us interested within such uniformity, makes Ways of Meaning a geuinely outstanding ambient release.

Kyle Bobby Dunn - Canyon Meadows by desire path recordings

Kyle Bobby Dunn - Canyon Meadows from joe morgan on Vimeo.

More on the genre work later.