Stream: Wellness “Wellness” (exclusive)

17 Dec 2014 — Lukas Dubro

The fascinating aspect of Alexander Winkelmann is that he seems to be in neverending metamorphosis. You can never be certain about what to expect of him-- only that it's gonna be different every time. Take for instance his live shows: One time he flips over the stage playing all kinds of instruments and gadgets over loud and dancy beats, next time he sits in the dark with a friend playing ambient guitar music over field recordings from the Chilean jungle.

Recordings from the Berlin-based artist are pretty much the same. His first, Das neue Album, was an acoustic guitar album. Winkelmann's voice and a guitar were recorded with nothing more then his laptop's internal mic. On his next, Das neuere Album, Winkelmann showed his experimental side, adding all kinds of instruments and deconstructing classical song structures. He continued down this lane, improving his production and adding more and more energy to it. His untitled EP has been the most energetic up to date and the ending point of what developed since. The link between all of his output is the attitude: punk gestures meeting an impressive artistic intellectuality. Winkelmann likes to play with quotes, and there always seems to be a false bottom, a deeper sense to them.

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For his latest album, Winkelmann has again changed the sound. Not only did he get himself a new name-- Alexander Winkelmann is from now on known as Wellness-- the production is much more elaborate, the arrangements more dense, and the whole vibe more serious (even though the playfulness is still there). One of the main reasons for this development is due to producer Dawn Mok aka Yule FM aka Lood Mahamoti's involvement. The signature of Dawn Mok's work is completely unique sound exploration. Each of his albums have a original sound that marry different genres with self-modulated digital synths. It's exactly this approach that nourishes the sound of Wellness. It seems like the perfect match: Two artists with a unconventional approach to music create an album with countless layers. Together they introduce hardcore beats, drones and heavy rock guitars to the universe of Alexander Winkelmann, while keeping the key elements like machine produced voice samples and (un peu caché) Winkelmann's unique way of singing.

All the same, Winkelmann is not the only Berlin artist skinning himself permanently. Two other prominent musicians are Winkelmann's producer himself, Dawn Mok, and performance artist Meghan Edwards aka Miss M.E. Since coming across Dawn Mok, he has had three different band projects, each with a completely different style. While Yule FM combined Adrian Orange-driven guitar music with autotune and hip hop beats, Lood Mahamoti was a hyperactive rap album with a lot of soul. Currently, with Dawn Mok, he mixes experimental pop music with deep industrial sounds. Dawn Mok also features Kathy Kwon, who contributes not only her beautiful voice to the dark soundscapes. Each of these projects sound more than convincing. Within two years, he has created more good music than many other artist do within their entire career. The same goes for Miss Edwards: It began with finding some pretty precious lo-fi bedroom tunes with a lot of 80's in it, but by the first show I attended, she had transformed into Julee Cruise, playing dreamy dark guitar music. Most recently, she teamed up with Berlin DJ Moonwheel to play a gothy Fever Ray-inspired set with a ghostly dance performance. What is true for Winkelmann and Dawn Mok is true for her; each version of Miss M.E is breathtaking.

One might ask, What's going on with these people? Why be inconsistant with your talent? Why not try at least to promote your most successful project a bit? Maybe some call it impatience, but I think it more accurately aligns with a hunger to explore that drives these artists to change over and over again. What they do reflects the transient possibilities and of the internet and a real place like Berlin colliding. They are searching and do not accept compromises or commit themselves to business strategies. Even though you have to be quick to catch up with them and take time to trace back their work, it is more than worth it to keep on eye on all three of these artists.

Listen to Wellness' debut self-titled album here.

Review: iamamiwhoami “Blue”

16 Dec 2014 — Andrew Darley

For their third audiovisual album, BLUE, iamamiwhoami move into the clearing. Centered on the metaphor of water as the technological medium in which art exists today, the collective fronted by Jonna Lee push forward their vision of the multimedia album experience. Continuing the lineage of their kin and bounty series, BLUE is a collection of songs accompanied by videos that together tell a story. Under the name of WAVE, Jonna Lee co-directed the videos for the first time, alongside cinematographer John Strandh and set designer Agustín Moreaux. We witness Jonna’s character being pursued by black disguised figures, referencing her kin era, through the glaciers of Iceland, the deep ocean and white sand beaches in her journey to progress.

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Jonna and her music co-producer Claes Björklund have transitioned from their shadowy, reverb-laden arrangements to compositions more assertive and brighter in texture. Once again, their songs experiment with traditional pop song structures in a thrilling way. "Hunting For Pearls" meanders before taking off into its lilting, life-affirming chorus about the thirst for change. "Thin" disintegrates halfway as its tempo drops and beckons with a sing-along refrain. "Chasing Kites" bounces and claps, heralding “A brighter forecast, New winds will blow”. With their expansive and aquatic-leaning synths, Jonna’s vocals come out from under the mysterious haze of previous records with her more transparent, direct delivery.

iamamiwhoami are of the few artists who fully grasp the intent of multimedia album. Their visuals and lyrics construct a story around references of their own progression and relationship with their followers. The facets they incorporate exist to establish and further a narrative. Creating the music in time with their videos, they encompass a dialogue with their listeners in the series’ telling. They generated personalized message in bottles that we see her making in the videos. They also created an interactive "BLUE Island", based upon the locations of the videos, to connect with their followers and offer additional content, including an alternative version of the record with segues. They are not playing catch up with the Internet platform, instead they have created their own arena and invited it into it. They map out and thoroughly consider how people will experience their songs.

BLUE is a celebration of how the digital experience no less than the physical – it’s simply different. Made of effervescent and sensual electronic pop and visuals echoing their pursuit of change, iamamiwhoami are in a league of their own regarding how to communicate in our digital era without losing a drop of creativeness.

Get BLUE over here.

Calidonia County “The Ghosted Years”

15 Dec 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski

Moon Glyph is one of my favorite labels. They have a great name, superb aesthetic, and fantastic roster. Home of 555, M. Sage, and Halasan Bazar, and based in Oakland, Moon Glyph nurtures a psych rock throwback and pro-future ambient electronica cross section. New to the line-up is Brooklyner Ian Ferguson performing as Calidonia County, a project that celebrates calm majesty of grass covered mountains that see plenty of sun. "The Ghosted Years" is about an hour of friendly summer afternoon ambience. Track titles spanning from "Dinner Money" and "Totality" suggest a keen sensitivity to both triviality and simple beauty in the world. "Totality" is a slow and breezy anthem of sorts, and quick to remind me of Manual. "Bioluminescence" is a lovely, shimmering type of dance track, accordingly representative of the pulsating glow of water bound organisms. Closing track "Ghost, Wine and Dusk" is wholesome, repetitious imagery of calmly drinking wine after a recreational saunter, realizing that the smell of the trees is stuck on your clothes.

Order "The Ghosted Years" here.

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Imre Kiss & Casi Cada Minuto “A-Sites Split” (exclusive)

11 Dec 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski

The young Proto Sites imprint will leave an impression on you with this split EP comprised of delicious sounds by Imre Kiss (Lobster Theremin, Budapest-based) and Casi Cada Minuto (Exitab, Bratislava). 

Casi's windy environment is at once recognizable for bearing structural similarities to Pete Namlook, FSOL, and Opal Tapes' 1991 to mention a few. "In Vain" is a wailing, teeth-clenching movement reminiscent of Rafael Anton Irisarri, however comparatively more directional. Opening track "Intonarumori" rings and whistles while a slow and somewhat auspicious low end stomps around in a clear late summer night sky, making us think of NASA's recent gift to sound purists and science nerds alike. Steadily, stretched synth enters the track to call back to the other end of the sonic spectrum before washing it all away. 

After about 20 minutes of growing acquainted to such aural cultivation, Imre Kiss' "Untitled (XLB)" begins. At first continuing the paddy sheen found throughout Casi's side, the beat soon takes your breath away, like a cool breeze after sitting in a sauna for a sufficient amount of time. After letting it do its thing, it becomes quite apparent that this track is the jam: catchy, gorgeous, and unhurriedly riveting. "Urizen," a powerful reference to Blakean mythology, features S Olbricht, another Opal Tapes and Lobster Theremin traversing name. "Urizen" is a distorted lo-fi-gasm complete with driven, saddening melodic palpitations, which perhaps do the fantastical god of reason and law some kind of justice. Imre released a video to promote the split and compliment this track's strange majesty:

Lo-fi hissing continues through "Dis Slo," which is my favorite on the EP, apart from Casi's "In Vain." Yes, I love cadence of a certain pace and praise it often as I come across it. This track possesses a Rainer Veil-esque march: it's a steady, wavering synth build that can make you feel like something is about to explode. When the track detonates, we're given lamenting vocal samples. The beat breaks and the vocal loops persist to serve as a type of chorus before the cymbals snip back in to wrap it all up. Conclusively, we're left with an isolated refrain that sings its poignancy without staying too long.

While we're really excited to have more Imre Kiss on NFOP, and we're equally as thrilled to better involve the talented Casi Cada Minuto, we can promise that this Proto Sites split is unlike what you've heard from either artist before. It's exactly what you wanted for Christmas?

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Young Braised “Middle Class Homie Quan” (exclusive)

09 Dec 2014 — Henning Lahmann

In August 2013, Vancouver-based Jaymes Bowman surprised us with his supremely manufactued debut as Young BraisedJapanese Tendencies. Toxin-enhanced stream of consciousness-lyrics over slow-burning, cloud rap-infused productions, the release could hardly have been more topical. Despite Considerable acclaim, however, while spending some time in New York City and Montréal last winter, Bowman made a real effort to further step up his game. And rather successfully at that: follow-up Northern Reflections is a much more matured and accomplished effort. Produced by Karmelloz and a i r s p o r t s, the 30-minute long tape is – in the best of West Coast traditions – both laid-back and nocturnal, embracing a more dystopian feel juxtaposed in opposition to a calm, serene attitude that characterises Bowman's lyricism. Listen to "Middle Class Homie Quan" exclusively below.

Northern Reflections is out December 25 on 1080p.

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Silver Pools “Carbon Cadence” (exclusive)

08 Dec 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski

Introducing Silver Pools, Toronto-based Todd "Mandolin" Macdonald's new spawn intended to serve as music genre androgeny for sonic healing. Macdonald has an extensive musical past and present, so introducing him isn't exactly accurate. Reaching from his legendary mandolin playing in Montreal's The Winks, he continues to play his superpower instrument as well as drums in several different projects in Toronto, including his own alter moniker, Norvaiza.

"Carbon Cadence" is taken from Silver Pool's upcoming freshmen release Memoirs of an Oblong Sphere. The Eno-esque melodic work, steady drudging, and, yes, cadence-like emo feel, reflect the well-curated aesthetic of the project: blue hues, the way indecisive skies effect our lives, relentless patience, space race nostalgia and moog synthesizers. The album overall is subtly gorgeous, with intrumental bridges and interludes being the most captivating parts. Learning that a younger Macdonald endured a polyp in his throat, which engendered a recession of singing and speaking, the album's moods of forbearbance, post-op listlessness, and summoning of shards of optimism, all seem quite deliberately pursued for the purpose of convalescence. This is a work one might easily curl up to during the darker corners of the cold season, as the winter tears us up into rudimentary, nostalgic pieces, when the snow doesn't sit so fresh. There is an undeniable warmth sweetly situated in this music which awaits your ears.

Stream Silver Pools' debut single "Carbon Cadence" below.

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Night Sports “Kids In Europe (Der E-Kreisel Remix)” (exclusive)

08 Dec 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Copenhagen native Caspar Bock's latest project Night Sports is a head-on trip into nostalgia: composed with synthesizers, samplers and drum machines from the late 70s to mid-80s, his EP Kids In Europe makes no attempt in being progressive. Squishy and drenched in analogue warmth, the traditional synth pop arrangements are made to sound like being played on 25-year old tape decks. Retromania? You bet. We won't blame him, though – the melodies are just a little bit too perfect to be mad at Bock. Whether it was really necessary to top it all off with a found VHS documentary from the beginnings of Kosovo's rave scene in the early 90s – as riveting as completely unrelated – is another question. Berlin-based Der E-Kreisel pulls "Kids In Europe" back into the 21st century with a slick, clean house production that may almost serve as an antithesis to the original. Take a listen below.

The Kids In Europe EP is out on Motor Entertainment.

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Stream: Antoine93 “Maybe Unlock My Heart” (exclusive)

05 Dec 2014 — Henning Lahmann

In the times we live in, citing this woman as a major influence will hardly provoke outrage, yet ignoring the abundance of post-modernist ironic fad for a second, it probably makes a whole lot of sense for someone emerging from Montréal's infinte well of pop music talent. Dion's impact is, after all, hard to evade within Québec. So despite surely tongue-in-cheek, Antoine93 might well be sincere. And indeed, his debut Maybe Unlock My Heart is nothing but pop in its pure and shining gestalt – yet never timeless, agreeable, or in any other sense aiming at the top 40. Quite the contrary, what we have before us is a work that's knee-deep in contemporary post-Internet currents; a little vaporish here, some extravagant, heartbroken crooning there, the Montréal artist who wrote the majority of this piece while being based in Berlin Neukölln, is certainly aware of what's going on in the musical corner of the www. Is that a problem? Not necessarily. Unsure if we'll come back to Maybe Unlock My Heart in five years time for reasons other than revisiting the pinnacle of 2014's pop culture? Maybe not. In any case, it shouldn't bother us now. So stream the whole release in full below. Right now, we promise you won't regret it.

Maybe Unlock My Heart is out on cassette and digitally via Berlin's new imprint Mansions & Millions – which sets out to specialize on Montréal's new guard – next Friday, December 12.

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