Music Reviews



Loke Rahbek: City Of Women

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 25 2017
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Artist: Loke Rahbek
Title: City Of Women
Format: LP + Download
Label: Editions Mego
Loke Rahbek’s debut solo album is a collection of dark, distorted drones and electronic washes and piano melodies.

The title track is a highlight, taking EDM sounds and remoulding them into something extensive and cinematic not dissimilar to some of BT’s soundtrack work. “A Mess Of Love” is also a mini-epic, beginning sparsely before opening into a triumphant-sounding quasi-orchestral conclusion (and a bizarre single drum hit at the end which frankly sounds like a mistake). Opener “Like A Still Pool” and closer “Take Pleasure In Habits” work well as book-ends, sombre punctuation for what’s between.

However at times it feels a little soundscape-electronica-by-numbers, with pieces like “Fermented” a very familiar arrangement of moody tones and lonely piano notes rather lacking in a distinct character, and “Swimwear” carrying a strong sense of deja vu with it. Like many other debuts, a more adventurous focus might have lifted this album to higher accomplishments, but as it is it’s a rich and interesting listen.

Jlin: Black Origami

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 22 2017
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Artist: Jlin
Title: Black Origami
Format: CD + Vinyl
Label: Planet Mu Records
“Black Origami” is a heavily Eastern-influenced, heavily percussive album full of short pieces that are predominantly glitchy electronica, but also part tribal breakbeat, part instrumental pop. The rhythm-first approach inspires dancing, but the complexity and constant shifting is generally DJ-unfriendly. The heavily quantized feel to parts of it seem reminiscent of 90’s tracker tunes, with the drum programming a complex mathematical exercise, as though trying to recreate a large percussion ensemble using a computer and pushing the synchronisation and rapid-fire retriggering faster than humans really could go.

“Nyakinua Rise” and “Hatshepsut” are brilliant exercises in measured aggression which you can visualise a martial arts display being set to. The sheer directness of pieces like “Enigma” really demands your attention, with cut-up vocal snippets that sound Bollywood-like as far as it’s possible to tell. Every track bounds with energy, so even sonically milder pieces like “Kyanite” still have some frantic layers- even collaborating with William Basinski on “Holy Child” doesn’t temper it.

Other guest appearances include the brilliant Holly Herndon, whose influence on “1%” brings sinister vocal samples (“you’re all going to die down here”), distortion and a cross-tempo techno flavour which works well. “1%” and the following track “Never Created, Never Destroyed”, a slightly more regular-tempo rap number featuring Dope Saint Jude, are a slightly anachronistic section towards the end of a mostly very consistent album.

This album seems strongly linked to modern stage dance- short, dynamic, shifting complex patterns that would allow dancers to move and express in ways unexpected by the audience. Nevertheless it’s still an enticing and intriguing home listening album even if you’re not planning to choreograph yourself to it.

Spoony Bard: Dweeb

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 17 2017
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Artist: Spoony Bard
Title: Dweeb
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
“Just playing jazz wasn’t cutting it any more”, said David Nord, so he delved into the L.A. electronic scene and started bringing his jazz guitar experience into a world of glitched, faintly retro synth-electronica. The result is “Dweeb”, an 8-track mini-album of quirky, semi-organic slow-stepping electronica numbers that sound like casual jazz cut up and reworked with technical precision. Some tracks even throw in a little Chromeo-ish funk for good measure.

It’s dynamic, with plenty of surprise changes, such as when the title track segues into the short-lived sort-of-drum-and-bass “Dryout” finale. The rhythms are complex and not always predictable- “Solitary Isle / Words Are Wind” one of those patterns that’s hard to understand yet sounds perfectly natural if you’re not counting it.

It’s instrumental in parts with short vocal snippets, but there are loose-form songs too- “Vibe / Void” and “Much Better” have full-on frustration-driven raps, while “Mantra / Micawber” plays like a verse in search of a chorus.

Things branch out towards the end. “Geno” is a temporary glimpse into a neighbouring universe where this was a more stripped-back drone album, but even at only a little over two minutes, there’s still space for the gentle groove to work its way back in. “Commoner” is another rap track but with a harder-edged beat and acid tones.

At under half an hour it’s a short-but-sweet album of offbeat programming and genre straddling that’s steeped in sincerity and introspection, sombre and at points a little inaccessible. It’s hard to pigeonhole and worth checking out for yourself.

I-LP-O In Dub: Capital Dub, Chapter 1

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 15 2017
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Artist: I-LP-O In Dub
Title: Capital Dub, Chapter 1
Format: LP + Download
Label: Editions Mego
Treading the line where dub effects meet soundscaping, Pan Sonic member Ipso VÄisÄnen’s second solo outing as I-LP-O In Dub is a short collection of rumbling bass tones, clicking and delaying hi-hats, sinister noises and sonic pessimism. Instrumental, but themed for the sinister underbelly of capitalism, it’s sombre and sometimes difficult to follow,

Tracks like “Divided Instruments Complexity” delve deeper into pure electronic wallowing, leaving behind the dub origins and becoming a form of electronic musique concrète of oscillators and glitches, while “Parecon” is a deep exploration of pared-down subbass sine waves having their shapes evolved. On the other hand pieces like “Dark Money Dub” and final track “Fear Of Heaping Capital” have a more recognisable stepping groove which feel like a natural empty point for Mad Professor appreciators looking for something even deeper.

It’s a really neat, well-formed package, just under 40 minutes of deep electronica that manages to shine and fill you with a sense of future dread simultaneously.

Proc Fiskal: Highland Mob

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 11 2017
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Artist: Proc Fiskal
Title: Highland Mob
Format: 12"
Label: Hyperdub
Edinburgh-based Proc Fiskal puts out his first release, the 4-track EP “Highland Mob”, and it’s pretty distinctive.

Lead track “£” is 80bpm or 160bpm depending on how you want to dance to it, blending the swagger of grime with more frantic synth noises and a properly quirky Asian-ish plinky lead melody. Second track “Lamentation” has a similar make-up, slightly more aggressive skittish d&b beats rolling under a bouncing bassline that it’s hard not to nod your head to. The odd sci-fi sample, the sound of a cash register and even some random yodelling flit in and out on top, but sparingly enough that things never get silly.

The daftness does ramp up on the flipside though, “Skulka”’s 155bpm groove looping squeaky robot noises, gaming battle grunts and 80’s-era drum machine hits with gunfire while 8-bit melody and bassline run in parallel, it’s bordering on tongue-in-cheek. Completing the package is “Acidic Hoes”, a somewhat Luke Vibert-y track with squelchy acid noises, a strong and sparse edgy bass note, and a groove yet again bizarrely constructed from drums, coughs and telephone noises.

Pitched as an antidote to the slowing down of grime music, “Highland Mob” is an unusual hybrid, part grime, part d&b, part chiptune, with a sense of humour playing deliberately against the mean-faced grime stereotype. It doesn’t fit a genre pigeonhole- one for the open-minded audiences.


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