CABARET VOLTAIRE. The Original
Sound Of Sheffield 78/82. Best Of. Mute. CABS16CD
The trio of Kirk, Mallinder and Watson undertook a dream of expanding the musical horizons in the late 70's with the introduction of experimental electronics into their overall sound. So here is a chance to look back at their work and see if indeed it was pioneering or whether it has completely failed the test of time. They were not really a serious singles band, preferring to release albums, which pushed the boundaries beyond what some considered acceptable. So this is a best of rather than a greatest hits CD. Many now will find their style quirky and it may also seem a little dated yet there is something preventing me from proclaiming this too loudly. Admittedly the synth sounds are from the period but the way they are used is still refreshing. Take for instance the opener Do The Mussolini (Headkick) where the synths provide the mellow interludes on a rasping beat and the sparse vocal interjections. The Set Up uses a high-pitched guitar sound as though it was a fast ticking clock to provide a rhythm for the other instruments. The finale, Loosen The Clamp displays the typical inventiveness of the trio in their quest to do something different that actually works. It may take time for your ears to adjust but don't dismiss this as you're bound to regret it later. Despite the passage of 20 years, this is a golden chance to relive those halcyon bygone days. (Philly)
MR. GOLDFISH. Chill For Life.
Although this is only a long EP, my attention was sparked into action by comparing it to a plethora of chilled out albums that seem to be appearing on the market. Instantly the music is to my liking as it's not only very relaxing but entertaining as well. The opening track Carousel Begins would equally be at home as the background music to a big department store or played loud in my living room. This occurrence must be classed as being very unusual and hence only music of the highest quality could achieve this feat. With a mean funky beat and bold sax breaks, this chill out is different and also exciting. Deeper bass is evident on the following track Enjoy Life, where the uplifting tones spread delight. It's not all chilled ambient as Trust will prove, where the sampled voice of Jianda Johnson is used to great effect in balancing the bass and rhythm section. The dub inspired Waiting To Breath is followed by the finale, in which the Latin flavoured Aquira is almost at odds with the rest of the album. In just short of half an hour, I was hooked and felt perfectly at home with these chilled out vibes. My only criticism is that it did not last long enough, but this will be addressed when the full length CD is released. I hope I don't have to wait too long? (brooky)
RICHIE HAWTIN & SVEN VATH.
The Sound Of The Third Season. Novamute. NOMU109CD
The idea was to capture the experience of the Whole Cocoon Club in Ibiza and create a 74 min. CD to remind those Monday night clubbers of times past and show those who are not, what they have missed. If you are thinking along the lines of Euro trance for pre pubescent teenagers, then reconsider very quickly, as displayed here on the 21 tracks, is techno, some of it quite minimal and what's more, it's pretty hard. Yes it's one of those continual mix affairs, but it has tracks by Slam, Swayzak and Vath to underline that harsh attitude applied to it all. I would expect most to reply that it all sounds the same with a very boring beat and all the happiness removed. It's about par for the course from those who have no time to appreciate music that is different. Turn up the volume and let these grooves come to you, it needs to be really loud to get the best out of it. Dirty by Dirty is one of the typical tracks with mean killer basslines and a perfect beat and it has quite an infectious growling hook section. It does become a little more melodic towards the end but that doesn't imply that they're going soft. Hawtin seems to prefer the more sparse production and Vath in comparison is a little less so. If you like your techno as hard as nuts, then here is the prefect album. (Philly)
ADD N TO (X). Loud Like Nature. Mute. CDSTUMM204
Purveyors of experimental rock electronica, this band show no signs of doubting their abilities. Take as a good example the opening track Total Out Of Water, where the drum sound is similar to Gary Glitter but the resemblance stops there as the rest is a mixture of kitsch synth riffs and screaming kids. Instrumental indie rock and electronic effects fill out the aural picture with more adult material of the next piece Electric Village. A heavier rock sound fills the next track with distorted vocals and a mean bass that is more than a nod towards to the punk style, but then they always add that bit extra to make you think. Pink Light has a sort of musical box sound with haunting vibes all wrapped up to make a melodic collage. On Up The Punks, the sound is not what you would expect from the title, as it has pseudo orchestration and a laid back fifties beat with electronics all designed to caresses your mind and it does that with great style. The music progresses with the tracks and the grooves become deeper. U Baby reminds me of Stereolab with the mixture of primitive synth sounds and rock. The finale All Right Lazy does have vocals although these are distorted to great effect. This band has a style that is most unusual and once you have heard, it will be remembered as will this CD. Great fun. (Brooky)
DSP. In The Red. Ninja Tune. ZENCD69
Strip away the lyrics from either hip hop or rap records and what is left? Usually very little and even less to sustain any interest, but here is the difference. DSP actually compose good basic melodies that stand up for themselves and with the addition of lyrics to the majority of these 14 songs, this must surely spice up their street cred. After the Intro, Systematic featuring Mass Influence has plenty of catchy riffs and lyrics that anyone can understand. The following track Where Is It allows Ev.On to show her individual style of hip hop, all laid on top of an inspired laid back melody with scratching to aid the mood. The vocals come from a variety of people, with only Chill Rob G and Mass Influence gracing more that a single track. On records such as these, you have to expect swearing, but here it is not used to excess or shock. The Trite-A-Saurus Rex starts all lo-fi funky before the meaty lyrics kick in and contrasts greatly with the next song featuring Phi-Life Cypher on My First Verse, which has a minimal jazz ridden backing and subtle orchestration. You know even before you listen to Bullshit with Chill Rob G that the lyrics will naturally upset a few, but this is part of the attraction. The laid back delivery of Juice Aleem is perfectly blended on The Living I where the brass section falls neatly into the gaps left by the rhythm. I found the finale No Regrets with Dell Donahue very infectious, which is a remarkable feat for hip hop and it rounds off a different but very enjoyable CD. At last, an album that bothmy teenage daughter I and agree is brilliant. (Philly)
MULTIPLEX. Mixt. Senton Recordings.
With 16 original tracks by Multiplex, lasting in excess of 75 min, you may be thinking why should I bother? A quick glance at the cover will reveal that all have been remixed by a variety of artists, with Animals On Wheels, Fuxa, Isan and Monolake probably being the best known. Does that really matter? I personally don't care who has done the remixing providing that the results are considered to be of interest. This CD certainly grabbed my attention from the first note, as it's vaguely the ambient side of electronica on Herrmann & Kleine's variation of Unknown Control. Much harder electronics is present on Always Within You by Funckarma, yet even here the melodic side shines through. On Neuteg, the mix has been Neuteged by EU and the resulting sound has a complex beat with distinctive melodic chords onto which an almost strident tone is introduced. I have only got to the fourth track Secrete by Isan and I am already completely mesmerised by the majesty of it all, incidentally this is a mellow track that has a Biosphere feel to it. The Animal On Wheels remix of Bevel has Japanese textures and is very haunting especially during the piano section. The Spark remix of Mainline combines spacey themes with a distorted beat perhaps a little akin to Aphex Twin and that's why I probably like it so much. Fuxa have a chance to excel on Environments and they do it with slower melodic passages providing a backdrop to conversations and treated voices. I suspect that I could enthuse for the rest of the mag about this little gem, but the editor may object and even worse delete the last word of this review. Magnificent. (philly)
MUTAGENE. Sleeping Possession.
Out of my latest batch of 10 CD's to review, the first to be placed in the player was this one and of course it was from choice. It is all the work of Alexis Glass, who is a native Canadian, but now resides in Japan. During the last four years whilst he has been studying there, he has developed a remarkable insight into what makes good quality music. This batch of eleven tracks is his first venture into the business and he has chosen the sphere of ambient, dub and techno to showcase his musical ideas. It's a strong CD without all those repetitive phrases borrowed from other recordings and gives an idea of his potential. Incidentally he was spotted via the Internet and thankfully can now share his music with a greater audience. The opening track Knockoff Spice contains a slow ambient beginning with the main haunting theme developing and before you realise that 5 min have elapsed we're into the next track A Lonely Hill, where gong type percussion is used almost as a melody rather than a rhythm. On Camera Dub, the long introductory notes provide great expectation of things to come and this ambient dub track is one of the best I have listened to for ages. It deserves to be played at high volume and just tell the neighbours its Mutagene! Another wondrous intro is Coldest Sleep with its slow pace and exceptionally haunting lines. These are particularly scary. An hour in the musical company of this guy will not be wasted, in fact there can be few better ways of allowing time to elapse. Now there are three albums released on this label and all are superb. (Brooky)
EXIT TERRA. The Next Phase EP.
Three guys make up the band, Robert Noble on guitar, Spatial K on bass and MC Ear on, er, everything else. The ep consists of one track, but believe me, it is, in the formal sense, an extended play cd! The track itself, The Next Phase, is improvised with no overdubs, and begins similar to a Robert Fripp solo album from around his soundscape period. Gradually the speakers fill ever so slowly with more echoing sounds and brick by brick, a psychedelic wall is built. MC Ear keeps things in check with a steady beat as Spatial K lays over a variety of slow but effective bass lines. Over this Robert Noble builds, via a variety of sfx, a massively impressive curtain of sound. Not quite the thing you'd hear on Radio One, but then again, decent stuff never is. Quite a journey - and again, thanks to Tim Jones from SP. Further info www.eploresound.com. (Dw)
NEW ORDER. Retro. London Records.
So, here it is. Perhaps the definitive 4 CD collection of New Order? I personally think so, although I'm sure there'll be some who'll bemoan their own favourites being left out. The other unique aspect of this collection is that each CD has been hand-picked by friends of the group, not by some backroom boy or girl in the record company. Disc 1 is "POP" and has been chosen by the journalist and author Miranda Sawyer. "POP" basically contains all the main hits and includes 'True Faith', 'Regret' and 'The Perfect Kiss', all the way up to the present day with 'Crystal'. It's so good to hear all these tracks together and Miranda has done a great job. It does, of course, include 'Blue Monday', but a track that gets over exposed at times. Friend and journalist John McCready compiled disc 2, "FAN". This takes us to the early years, from the formation of the band after Joy Division to the mid eighties. There are many gems here including "In a Lonely Place", "Procession" and "Your Silent Face". Guitars and drum play a more prominent role at first, with electronica slowly coming to the front as the years progressed. There are a lot of tracks here that I'd forgotten about and which gave me an overwhelming rush of nostalgia for my university days in Manchester. The sound, to begin with, is much darker, sombre, moody, but the beginnings of the combination of rock, dance and electronica are plain to hear. Towards the end, the mood begins to lighten - try and listen to "Every Little Counts" without a grin on your face. The hardcore indie fans will not be disappointed. Both these CDs are a reminder of how ahead of the game New Order have always been and they have consistently produced fresh, exciting music. Disc 3 has Mick Pickering of M People collecting together all the remixes under the banner "CLUB". Again, a fine collection and he's done well to include tracks that don't seem to have dated - these could easily be played in clubs today. It's here too that "Blue Monday" makes a quite brilliant re-mix appearance - it sounds so refreshingly different. The final disc, "Live", was compiled by Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie and New Order. It's spine tingling to hear the stuff from 1981 (yep, over 20 years ago - you're getting old!) and altogether shows how good both the band and the sound was on tour. The tracks cover all years up to the beginning of 2002. This CD will be appreciated by all. Now, if you're very lucky, you may get yourself a limited edition fifth CD. This CD contains a collection of mixes, live offerings and a 17 minute version of Elegia (the track that sounds very similar to the chiming watch and climatic showdown in "For a Few Dollars More" - honestly, it does). A must-have for the very avid fans. So there you have it. New Order. A great bunch of lads and lass and an extraordinary boxed collection. Remind yourself how brilliant they were, are and no doubt will be. Buy two and keep one safe - it'll be worth a fortune in years to come. (Liam)
HEXSTATIC. Listen & Learn: Solid Steel Mix. Ninja Tune.ZENCD75
Robin Hexstatic can often be heard contributing to the Sold Steel radio show and now a skilful mix of tunes has been amassed for this, the second in the Ninja collection. The first featured DJ Food & DK and on the latest release the mix is probably even more surprising. On my promo copy a warning has been given that the final track listing may be different, but this is pretty impressive even so. There are lots of predictable contributors, but then you see names like Grandmaster Flash, Ike & Tina Turner and Shirley Bassey! I ought to point out that the latter is a remix by Nightmares On Wax and it's very good too if you missed it. Add a section of reggae by Toots & The Maytals, electronics from the Boards Of Canada and Electro from Young MC and the package of nineteen songs is complete. Incidentally the opening track by the duo themselves is absolutely awe inspiring as I am always partial to a bit of dub, but their Telemetron is one of the best opening sections that I have heard for ages. The last track, Home Shopping by Bobby Trafalgar has a vocal score from one of those German adult films. Listen & learn they say. I hope you pay as much attention as I did, otherwise you'll miss a great opportunity to increase your musical knowledge and be amazed by the techniques needed to mix such a diverse set from the CD decks. (Brooky)
SPACE RAIDERS. Hot Cakes. Skint.
A double CD or is it a single CD with a bonus CD. This is our first stab at a review on the Skint label of Brighton fame and the sound has a slightly dated feel on some of the tracks. Lovers of high fidelity recordings will hate the Space Raiders as their sound does not fit into this category, but if it did, then I believe the mood of their music would be lost. It's a strange thing to say, but then some would class me as a little strange. I find their music infectious and the first CD contains two hit singles and lots of tracks that you may have heard on adverts and TV trailers. The opening track Laying It Down takes in lots of vocal effects and distorted drums but retains a great charm. It could be an Air or Zero 7 track but with attitude. Hot Cakes is one of those singalong tunes that you should despise with mediocre instrumentation and yet I want to listen to it again. Big beat meets the Specials is the best way of describing U Are What U Eat with the track progressing into a much deeper groove and the changes it undergoes are very impressive. A simple acoustic guitar starts Mr Sunshine before the other instruments are played in a down-tempo style. The second 6 track CD contains new tracks and remixes by Groove Amarda and Midfield General. This trio has discovered a style that works very well and it's all very exciting. If I were a little younger, I would join their fan club! (Peebee)
VARIOUS. Source Lab 17 Classiques De 1995 A 2002. Source.
This small French label in the mid 90's released it's first compilation, Sourcelabs 1, which apparently didn't interest the home front, but caused waves of excitement abroad. Consisting of producers making music at home, this electronic musical explosion was like a damp squid to the French, but undeterred, another release contained the music of Daft Punk and by time the third was available, Air were starting to get recognition. So a very brief potted history, what about the music, well it ranges from good to superb. The two offerings by Air are marvellous, the Modulator Mix will have been heard before, but not perhaps the Brendan Lynch remix of Casanova 70. Without doubt the best is the Version Longue of Musique by Daft Punk. Lasting almost nine minutes with its frequent tweaking of the tone controls, this has all the hallmarks of a great dance tune. A small gripe - eight tracks on either promo CD does not quite make 17. Still UK buyers will get a bonus CD of new material from the artists who are currently signed to this label. If you missed out first time, then don't let it happen again. A 1st class lesson in French electronic music. (Pb)
KEEN-O. Nobody Knows How And Why.
Materiali Sonori. Sample.
Oh how cruel, how cruel! Here we have a three tracks sampler from Keen-O's new album. Keen-O consists of loads and loads of musicians, but Roger Eno should ring a few bells amongst you? These three tracks just entice and it's so cruel not to have the album, hopefully this little tirade may bring it my way. With sumptuous instrumentation, programming and beautiful soundscapes, this is the bee's knees. The release is typical of Materiali at their best, and all I can say is roll on the album...please?
Well, Materiali didn't even get to read the above as the album arrived a couple of weeks later, so seeing as though I was rather miffed at not getting it, a review is in order? Artists such as Janson and Barbieri, Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble come to mind with many of the sumptuous tracks here. There is a 'feel' to this kind of music that exudes a certain class, and many of the bass lines, courtesy of Arlo Bigazzi, are very much in the Laswell vein: dub without the echo, if you know what I mean? Blaine L. Rieninger's vocals are more often than not spoken, but when he does sing, his deep voice resonates and fits in incredibly well. With the exception of Roger Eno, most of the musicians, main and 'guests' are Italian, but the results are universal, the inclusion of things like trumpet, cello, and clarinet on the occasional song is inspired. In many respects, and I've said this before, Materiali have developed a 'sound' that belongs not just to the label, but the combined efforts of musicians like this. Okay, so I haven't heard all of Materiali's albums, but the ones I have, I've always been struck by the sheer majesty of the results. Genre hopping there might be, and in great abundance, but when it's done with such ease and quality, it's more than welcome. There's 11 tracks in all, and not one is below excellent. (Dw)
DAN BARRIO. This Physical World.
The front cover depicts a varied assortment of teeth, which will unsettle certain people and yet the music won't. This is an absolutely gorgeous package of ambient and quieter instrumental music that will fit most moods. The opening track As Things Are features a recessed menacing rhythm that is marked by sumptuous notes. The even slower second piece entitled Virgin Light is only there to provide a haunting effect until the next track Melodic Interlude No 1. This is basically a piano piece with electronic treatment that could have been by Roger Eno (certainly a compliment of the highest order) which is my favourite section of this outstanding album. More moody elements are introduced on Warmth And Pause which has the listener torn between relaxation and being on edge. Some of the tracks are quite minimalist, but this is only to keep you on your toes and prevent stodgy sounds wandering aimlessly through the air. I really like his style and if you could see my face at this moment in time, there is a wide smile as I enjoy these fine aural sounds of distinction. On Weakness And Desire, a plucked string instrument gives a slight Japanese aspect to the proceedings, but this is totally at odds with the brooding sounds that build from the background to become dominant. Barrio's music contributed to the soundtrack of the film the Blair Witch Project and now the 26-year-old has released his first album of quality items that should satisfy the most demanding of critics. These sounds from analogue synths, electric violin and bathtub must be heard by a wider audience so why not try out his music via the website www.danbarrio.com (Brooky)
VIVAHEAD. We Love Infinity. Seroxat Music.
Lewis Gill and Neil Packer make up this electronic duo otherwise known as Vivahead. It's a seven track album and Seduction kicks off the proceedings. It's a track that I heard on a compilation fairly recently and I must admit that since then, I've found that I do actually like it better than I did then! In the background there's a cacophony of all kinds of electronics, orchestral and static swirling away, broken now and then by a vocal sample, which, initially, is rather repetitive, but like I say, it ain't that bad now. Very experimental. Pig Giddy is worlds apart - more structured with an electronic pattern that is light and quite beautiful, and then the synthesised strings kick in and we're off. Almost classical, it's quite a lovely piece. Cycle begins with those squeaky party thingies, and then a similar electronic pattern (like on the previous track) comes in with a treated vocal sample, at around one and a half minutes the beat starts and combines the sounds into a superb melange - one of the best tracks, for sure. In The Making reminds me of something from Zappa's Jazz From Hell, an incredible and oddly timed piece yet strangely compelling. Peter is almost Henry Cow! Jeez, these guys have some influences. It's a cracking melodic piece played initially with keyboard to about half way, then treated strings come in and combine to make a really smart piece - another cracker. If nothing else it proves that they can actually play music and not just make interesting noises! The Question is quite a spooky piece, with a treated vocal sample, something that sounds like a gremlin's road drill, and a melancholic cello - the thing is, though, it bloody works! Again, the strings come in and manage to mesh the thing together - weird! Damn good though. Concert For A Celebrity concludes the album with the shortest track. This has to be the King Singers on methadone, singing Ken Dodd's Appendix with a simple melody. I can honestly say I've never had an album anywhere near as eclectic as this - brilliant. firstname.lastname@example.org. Dw