There is, of course, something about German artists and gloomy, at times stodgy works that seems almost all too intimately connected. Think lonesome wanderers standing on rocks staring into the clouds below, or something along those lines. Even translation will fail you: 'Schwermut', the most Teutonic of all sentiments, finds only an approximate equivalent in 'wistfulness', and is miles away from 'melancholia', more dismal, more inescapable, yet more hopeful at the same time. Thomas Bücker's Bersarin Quartett embodies such Schwermut. Slow and pondering, Bücker's compositions create gently unfurling sculptures that may stare into the clouds without getting lost in dull sadness. Instead of relying on cheap effects, the cinematic arrangements on the artist's third LP III remain suitably complex and subtle. Take album standout "Jeder Gedanke umsonst gedacht" [Every thought a thought in vain] with its sprawling yet reluctant strings, hinting at life's hardships without ever willing to give in.
With their second release, 1800HaightStreet make it evident that they've dialed in signatures of their sound. Hi hats and noise cut across chthonic dub in both releases, but their first work felt paranoid and frenetic at times, propelled along by snare fusillades at 130. In their new work, the anxiety has been released. It's still night, but the visions have have slowed down and become warmer.
The three tracks take their direction not from the awkwardly titled B1 track "Heldled" but from its A-side, "Dreamer." Like the track name, the album does threaten heavy-handedness. Airy synths and soothing dub traverse well-tread space, but then acid, noise, and the surging sound of electricity provide the contrast that holds everything together. As the record's most remarkable track, "Heldled" touches on familiar sounds with a melancholic Burial-esque woodwind and a melody that's reminiscent of Four Tet's "She Moves She," it's the surging electricity that save it from sentimentality and marks out the Vancouver trio's aesthetic.
While the EP doesn't have anthemic stompers like predecessor The Pursuit, the sound is just as big. There's no getting lulled into complacency or to sleep. The visions aren't so straightforward after all.
It was said that Objekt 'achieves a quintessentially techno aim: embodying the future.' The statement could be made truer. It's not techno that most reflects our anxieties about our future world back to us, but electro. The 4/4 that exemplified the unimpeded production of industrial modernity is torn apart by a future that's unpredictably complex, frenetic, and not easily understood – a future of break beats. Dieselboy released The Human Resource in 2006. And now, on September 11, 2015, Privacy has put out The Human Resource Exploitation Manual on Lobster Theremin. The future has grown dimmer, but have the sounds become more future? No new heights in sound production and composition are attained here. Nevertheless, Privacy has produced a consistently good piece of work in these three tracks.
The best parts of the EP are when the sounds of percussive machinery, tones, and noise roam – intersecting and diverging into an edifyingly complex, mutating, and dystopian world; the worst when the A-side tracks make use of the melodies and chords of black and white scary movies to signify the eerie. For electro to continue to break boundaries (and to be taken seriously), it has to cut itself free from such cliches and embrace the dazzling and frightening future. "Apex Predator", the standout track of the EP on the B-side, makes sparing use of melody, and does just that. Vaulting itself forward at 133 BPM into driving dance music, it leaves sentimental impulses behind. As the record comes to end, we're left in the place we want to be.
The Human Resource Exploitation Manual is out now. Get it here.
Originally from Dublin, Michael Orange relocated to Quebec for two years. At the beginning of 2015, Orange released his debut record The Skeletal System under his artist name Feather Beds. Only a few short months after its release he is now releasing a new EP, Ah Stop. Written in the depths of a sub-zero Canadian winter, the EP has a contrasting glowing feel. Opening with the sleepy “El Manx”, the EP’s four songs comprise looped instrumentation, treated vocals and muffled textures, which reverberate like old memories. There’s a warmth in the swell and restraint of “Manx”, while the closing song “Drat” echoes the soft keyboard melody of its opener alongside audio clips of old-school television. With only a few months since his debut record, Ah Stop shows a more concentrated electronic sound set to feature on his second album scheduled for 2016.
Night Trap are an electronic duo based in Dublin made of Jill Daly and Ciarán Smith. They formed their band over a mutual love of synth music of the ‘80s such as Kraftwerk, Oppenhemier Analysis and the music of Vince Clark. Their approach does not attempt to replicate what was great about that period in electronic music; instead, the pair emulates the wistful vitality of the era’s music. Over a stuttering beat and sharing vocals, their new single “Someone Like You” yearns for a new love: “Is there someone else around that’s just like you?” It’s sweeping dose of electronic pop about a desire to find new love without having moved on from a former relationship.
What makes abstract music beautiful? Take Savant's "Using Words," opening track from the Artificial Dance LP, out September 4th on RVNG Intl. The bright keys and guitar feedback strown throughout the song give the seven minute sonic wallpaper a sense of pleasant curiosity. If they were taken away, we'd be left with the darkly comical, Morricone-esque pieces of some kind melody. The pieces would equate to ongoing, gentle inquisition, but with a harder, more gutter punk exterior.
This likening may seem laughable when learning about the leader behind the work. Seattleite Kerry Leimer, long-time avantgardist and label runner, is hardly gutter punk. Highly intelligent, auteurist, rhythmic enthusiast is more like it, although Seattle always has but grunchy edge to it. In any case, Leimer's imprint, Palace of Lights, offers at least 168 full hours of soundtrack to your life. It could be private, ambient and abstract listening while at work in your cubicle, feeding a guilty pleasure for insane music in a world made of pretend sensibility. It is on POL's homepage that we learn that Artificial Dance is a re-edition from Savant's original, self-titled POL release, one briefer, shyer, less heady. A Period of Review is where RVNG first got involved with Leimer, and it differs from Artificial Dance in several ways, one being that there's a lot more tracks on the former release. Secondly, A Period of Review is a lot more muzak-y, melody-centric, and, well 1970s-feeling, whether it in its entirety is a product from that era or not. In the RVNG shop you can order a POL CD bundle which features three K.Leimer ambient releases and Marc Barreca's Tremble, an album which Textura says "takes mere seconds for it to swell into the robust form it will assume for its duration.... a word like organic is less applicable than geologic, given the immense tectonic force with which its material convulses."
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Having said that, how does DJ Shadow's unique type of turntablism slip into the picture? "Indifference" is comprised mostly of shreds of steel guitar drone and intentionally-stale bass, plus big beats that march forth with a dialectical message. "The Neo-Realist" is all about the lyrical sample and its being relentlessly warped He shouts about Jesus, societal privilege, and wearing no mask, at which point the speakers - or shouter - sounds like David Byrne. If you listen to the track in headphones, you can hear the impressive and rather delicious amount of obscure frequency reached by happenstantial audio manipulation. There's also a myriad of well-employed pan pervading the entire album.
"Shadow In Deceit" is where Faith No More steps to take a little Caribbean holiday with us. Uplifting, shimmering guitar in whatever key that the guitarists from Broken Social Scene used a lot delivers a warm, wholesomely content smile upon our faces. The feisty down beat is slightly faster than the chimes and other percussive bits that are bouncing around inside this moving truck of an album, which may testify for the fact that contributing artists picked up instruments they do not possess fluency with, as per Leimer's vision, and that, moreover, may elucidate the album's pervasive feeling of curiosity: what is this thing, and why are people obsessed with it? Bang, strum, clap, boom.
When "Heart Of Stillness" begins, I realize that I could respond in both freeform and detail to every song on Artificial Dance, suffice to say that, apart from the (slightly lampooing) spirit of wonder and fascination, wildness is what really pervades the album. A pure yet manicured, improvistional, This Heat-like safari through the innards of a car tape player that saw its action only in the late 80s and earlier 90s. So, to return to our question from the offset, I believe the answer is tenacity: in order to keep the human experience mysterious, labyrinthal, and oftentimes maddening, it must continue to be interpreted as such, frenetically. Persistence inevitably leads to triumph, I believe.
Aritificial Dance has been remastered and is out on RVNG Intl. September 4th. You can snatch it here.
One must rifle through something in order to reach Helen's The Original Faces full-in beauty, and it isn't distortion. The barricade between the album's heavenliness and our ears may or may not result from being over-familiar with Liz Harris' modus operandi; experiencing her vocal-puddling grandeur under a different guise partially informs this suspected barrier. The structural rock and friendly shoegaze, not to mention the application of a tambourine, distances us from longing, pleading, predictable, addictive Grouper. The Original Faces lacks any type of lull or shrugging shoulders. Executed in twelve short tracks, the band knows exactly what they want to accomplish and does it most succinctly. Be that as it may, I had a strange memory lapse in learning about the release. I thought to myself, "Oh, of course this is coming out, and that's great, and it feels deja-vu-y, and of course it's shoegazy, and there's a song called 'Allison,' which is probably a Slowdive cover."
It's not; it's an original "Allison," and it's absolutely lovely. Throughout the album, lyrical layers accumulate and chantey with Jed Bindeman's hi-hat-heavy drums and Scott Simmon's slowly progressive electric guitar. "Dying All The Time" is a tight-knit snare, floor tom, and ride tapestry, one that digs and digs and digs through seemingly impassable surfaces. The tension and focus lifts every time Harris reenters, no matter the track. Finished in only thirty-three minutes, one might feel as if something has quickly washed over them, like an unnoticed storm that alters the temperature. Hit play again, and focus more. Find something to grab on to, such as the lingering vocals at the end of "Violet."
Harris' indecipherable lyrics leave us fulfilled. The project is unique, and some Grouper fans likely rejoice in her appearance in a shoegaze band. The sound of Helen, on the other hand, is heavily habitual. If such is the case, how does the project still feel anomalous, a forces which satiates and calms someone who has been suffering from musical frustration? Gorgeous though it is, something about the album is fleeting, unavailable for grasping fully. Some people certainly love and prefer music like that.
Helen's freshman full-length will be out on September 4 on Kranky. You can check out their 7" from 2013, whose tracks will likewise appear on The Original Faces.
Auscultation, in case you didn't know, is the name of technology used for listening to internal organs. The stethoscope is the best known and most timeless form of such technology. Not to comically liken recent Portland transplant Joel Shanahan's more cuddly project to stethscopic techno, "Promise You'll Haunt Me" is indeed a gentle harkening to what is up with the heart, whether it is that of the artist's or our own. The coating of analog film on the top layer of the album only briefly feels like the cold shock of the metal ring around the horn of a doctor's stethoscope. If you're accustomed to analog fuzz with house beats, this tape is your home. By the time lonesome-sounding "Drop Off" plays, the listening experience has evolved into a source of comfortable reflection via aurality. Each track is a soothing, melodic jam representative of Shanahan's particular craft, attention to detail, and willingness to do inner-work, which tends to be vaguely muzak-y, yet persistently enjoyable. Such qualities are found in the sounds of both Auscultation and his other moniker, Golden Donna.