VARIOUS. Project Aristotle: Year
One. Project Aristotle Records. PA0001CD
A new independent label with the aim of releasing music that fits into the ambient to hip-hop categories. So five acts are included on this ten-track compilation, which represents the first year of commercial releases. The label is based in Denver, CO and I will always be able to find this CD as it remains very close to the inside of the player. The opening piece Del Sol (Radio Edit) is one of those haunting ambient tracks that you just wish would continue. I suspect the full version by Dura is well sought after especially by myself. The second contribution, again by Dura is entitled Beacon Hill and is even more beguiling than the opening track. With the combination of sumptuous melodies and a deep beat, the ingredients are all present to allow a simple piano riff with reverb to astound. Next up is the turn of General Musician and the first of two is called Ecitex. Here the downtempo feel is delightfully exploited and the instrumental music is of a very high quality all brought about by a thunderous beat tempered by subtle melodies. Highdrop is the next to be featured and the second piece; Scuba Snack contains sounds from the deep, which naturally makes a very eerie affair on this vaguely trip hop piece. On Rooftop by Second Thought, the gentle electric guitar notes sets the scene for a relaxing six and a half minutes. In comparisons the following track shows a totally differing aspect with lots of reverb onto which electronica is liberally applied. Suitably entitled Clouds, with church style organ passages, the beats are below measurement, but it's still an evocative piece. Ghoulish ambiences provide the basis for the finale by Sisk, but that does not imply that the beats and rhythms are missing from White Powder Bubbles Pt 5, because they are very prominent indeed. If this is the best of year one, then I can thoroughly recommend it and look forward to a very promising second year. The word marvellous does not adequately describe how good this project is. (Phil)
TANGERINE DREAM. Poland &
Underwater Sunlight. Sanctuary CMRCD641 & 654.
After the dust had settled after Baumann's exit from the band, Johannes Schmoelling came in, and did the regular album/tour/album stint. Poland captures the band playing for a very appreciative (and somewhat large-sounding) audience in Warsaw back in 1983. The 'sound' is basically an extension of albums such as Hyperborea and Tangent - a more structured sound with slowly changing percussive elements revolving around washes of sharper sounds than what one was used to circa Phaedra. The quality of their equipment and the recording techniques really shine here and it's hard to imagine that it was recorded live. Four tracks in all, kicking off with Poland, and then into Tangent, Barbakane and concluding with Horizon. Okay, so there's nothing here to challenge or set new standards, but as I've found out with a lot of these 'after' Virgin albums, they aren't as bland as I used to think. The middle section, for instance, of Tangent, is superb.
So, after Schmoelling decided to leave, Froese and Franke recruited the talents of one classically trained Paul Hasslinger. His first 'album' with TD was in fact this very album, Underwater Sunlight. To be truthful, the flow and continuity of the sound, carrying on from Poland, is actually pretty seamless. Hassinger's classical training can be heard on quite a few of the pieces, but it seems to be held in check by Froese and Franke. The technology used around this time does, ironically, tend to place it very much in the early to mid 80s, but there are some really clever realisations on many of the pieces. The album's kind of themed, kicking off with Song Of The Whale (parts one and two), we then get Dolphin Dance, Ride On The Ray, Scuba Scuba and concluding with Underwater Twilight. Sequencers aplenty, loads of repetitive percussives and some quite effective guitar power chords from ol' Froese. Underwater Sunlight does have a distinct difference to Poland, but there's no denying it's TD. (Clarence).
BONOBO. Dial M For Monkey. Ninja
If you are thinking that you've never heard of Bonobo or the music, well think again, because almost every week you'll find part of his music accompanying some TV holiday programme or documentary. The latest CD features a batch of nine instrumentals and on my promo copy, the titles have not yet been confirmed. That is only a small matter when comparing the talent Bonobo has for producing music of the highest quality. The opening track starts quietly enough and seems quiet innocuous, but before you've had time of dismiss it, the mind is hooked. The beat and occasional silly noises all contribute to Noctuary becoming a highlight and we're only on the first offering. On Flutter the samples are at times from the seventies, but they are marvellously brought into the new millennium by clever mixing and an intoxicating beat. Just count the number of differing instruments used to make this brilliant track. If all the other tracks are naff, then this CD is worth buying just for the first two. The ability to make outstanding tracks that you instantly know are going to appear as background music on TV is enviable. Two such items are the third track D song with its repetitive unusual rhythm section tempered by the marimba like sound and the marvellous finale Light Pattern. It starts rather jerkily, but when the strings encapsulate the main theme, a warm glow is exuded. So just another batch of nine tracks to whet the appetite when you could manage at least ninety! (Philly)
VARIOUS. Roots Of Dub Funk 3.
Tanty Records. TNTYCD009
A low to mid price budget release that does not offer similar in musical quality. In fact the dozen examples of dub are pretty impressive. You have to be shaken by those basslines, especially when listening on a hi-fi; this sort of music is not for inferior systems, which rattle if a modicum of bass is presented to it. The opening track Spirit World Dub is just one of those that performs an audio check on your system and what is even better is that Brain Damage featuring Tena Stelin have managed to make it so infectious. This is truly a definitive of the style and has to be rated as excellent This is followed by Alpha and Omega's Jerusalem, where again the bass riff is applied with maximum force, but it's still great dub. The brass section with added reverb offer a grand opening on Our Father Dub by Jah Warrior. The pseudo orchestrated Babylon Kingdom by the Dub Funk Association is another one of those infectious tracks that must surely inspire the listener. If that was not your ideal track, then try Living Soul Dub by Burning Babylon and you have difficulty in rejecting this happy sounding slab of dub. If you are willing to let these dozen samples of dub come your way, then you won't be disappointed. I wasn't. (Brooky)
OZRIC TENTACLES. Aborescence/Become
The Other. Snapper. SMDCD425
This 5- piece band have been delighting crowds for decades with their brand of instrumental space rock. Instead of just repackaging the CD and re-releasing it, here they put two single albums out as a double CD. I bought Aborescence quite a long time ago and haven't played it for ages, so it was certainly going to be of interest to see if it had stood the passage of time. Was it just a curiosity or something more? The eight original tracks of the first CD were the Ozric's second release and although it brought back memories, those thoughts are not from a musical bygone era, which has no place in the modern music dome. A typical high energy intro greets the listener whilst enjoying the opening track Astro Cortex on the first disc, but its not all pounding beats and virtuoso performances as the Ozrics have a gentler side in particular the title track. Here the quiet beginning could be describing a dream paradise, on the savannah where the distant wildlife sounds are not there just for effect, but add to the passages of the soaring flute, to make a great musical statement. If I were to pick out a favourite from the second disc, this would be the rhythmic Wab Glass, with fascinating interplay between the musicians. The Ozrics are indeed good musicians, which is self-evident whilst engrossing yourself in their music. (Philly)
ART OF INFINITY. New Horizon.
Originally released on ATM back in 2000, the CD has now been picked up by the London based Internet label, Peoplesound.com. It's a blend of downtempo and laid back ambient, which also features some pretty cool saxophone playing on the second track Oceans In Space. The opener is very short and only lasts for 85 seconds, but again displays how much impact the sax can have on a track. On Written In The Sand, the mood becomes more demanding with spoken poetry and then the sax again is used to fine effect. The start of Three Days Winter is much more menacing with slowly building broody passages that vary with intensity. The sound is matured for the first two minutes and then it's all destroyed by the abrupt change of tempo and sound. The piece then builds again before moving into differing textures all held together by the mood. There are only five tracks, but the finale entitled Evolution is a 20 min gem of changing sounds that form texturing and develops it's own musical rhythms. It could almost be separate tracks apart from returning to the main theme, where Eva Wolf harmonises with the score with a positive soaring voice. The main collaborators are Thorsten Sudler-Mainz (who is one half of the truly excellent Young Man Afraid Of His Horses; please check out their amazing series of EP's) and Thorsten Rentsch, who with the help other musicians, have managed to create a musical score that is ideal to be enjoyed whilst travelling the airways. (Brooky)
MELUSINE. The Aqua Path. N-Heptane.
To be filed under New Age, Ambient and Electronic, this debut release stopped me in my thoughts. I was suddenly attracted to the sumptuous watery sounds of the opening track Feather-Star. It's Kate Durkes first journey into the realms of CD territory and you'll soon find that the next hour will pass every so quickly. Imagine the relaxation tapes of whales and then improve upon it by a million times and only then does the listener realise that here is a beautiful sound that will be the ultimate stress buster. I was captivated by the abundance of mellowed chilled out sounds that never venture anywhere near blandness. She had a little assistance from Jeremy Shaw, but it's mainly her own work and the sleeve notes describe where the inspiration for the music came from. Mostly its instrumentals but a couple of tracks have vocal components that blend well with the mood. On Rain Chains, the gentle clanking of chains and bells gives an oriental feel, which was inspired by a book about Chinese mythology. Some may think that spending this amount of time negotiating The Aqua Path would prove difficult to retain the interest level, yet I wanted it to be a double CD or am I being just a little too greedy? Marvellous stuff. Please visit the website www.n-heptane.com for more info. (Phil)
OZRIC TENTACLES. There Is Nothing/Live Ethereal Cereal. Snapper. SMDCD309
A double CD offering fourteen class tracks on the first half and then classic live performances from the Glastonbury and Reading festivals during the mid 80's. If you like the instrumental space rock of the likes of Hawkwind etc and have not been bothered to listen to this band, then you have missed so much, but now is the time to make amends. After the fine energy building opener entitled The Sacred Turf, the Japanese flavoured O - I lowers the pace a touch and allows more space for the instruments to blend together rather than being in competition. Even the use of a flute amongst all that rock seems to be perfectly suited. The following spectacular track Jabular again sees the band take a more ethereal path where an ambient trance feel is achieved by angelic harmonising style accompaniment. The reggae guitar riff and dub bass/drums onto a spaced out soundtrack make another variation to the sound on Staring At The Moon. More reggae sounds contribute to Crab Nebula with other spatial effects to make a very infectious track. Another favourite is Invisible Carpet where a near perfect example of their stylised music is to be heard. The solid beat and loud synth riffs alternating with lead guitar passages that is bound to get the adrenaline flowing. The Second disc is good for content, but the recorded quality is not as high as the first disc. This is another fine example of powerful, but not necessary loud instrumentals by a band that seems to be constantly overlooked by some sections of the media. (Phillys)
CyberCHUMP. Abstract Air. Internal
This is the third outing for this duo, but the delightful ambient themes are a departure from their normal Electro sound. Mark G E and Jim Skeel live in Milwaukee and have put together a 7 track CD with a difference. Three of the pieces form the Kursk Suite, which graphically displays in the aural sense the tragedy surrounding the sinking of the Russian Submarine. The opening track, The Darkest Hour/Dawning naturally starts very quietly with the gentle stirring of the deep-water chasms, which gives a distinct feeling of isolation. Overlook is more upbeat with short notes that resemble sonar blips, but does not sound like them. The slow moving moody theme portrays an underlying powerful theme. The first of the suite is entitled Amniotic World with deep notes and loud chord structures to imply the mighty almost regal and certainly untouchable nature of this mysterious product of creation. The middle section is much quieter and again more traditionally ambient and perhaps remaining bold on the outside, but with a vulnerable section. I could easily become engrossed listenening to The Infinite Now on a pair of headphones in a dimly lit room. The finale of the suite is Requiem For The Kirsk and contains solemn themes. Calling was recorded back in 1985 and so it's interesting to note that there's no sign of a dated sound. The use of male and female vocal sounds to enhance the mood is alluring. The very mellow title track is one of those rich textured pieces that are a true delight to listen to when you're feeling knackered. Although this is an ambient product, the textures and sound layering produce a dark and very moody feel. This is no lightweight trip into happy melodic tunes for kiddies, but rather a mature, thoughtful and ultimately pleasing album for grown ups. (Phil)
VARIOUS. Euro Lounge. Putumayo. P209A
Sub titled a cool contemporary collection of continental chilled-out classics, this CD lets you instantly know what's it's all about. The opening track by the Thievery Corporation with Loulou singing in French gives a beautiful downtempo performance of Un Simple Historie that will instantly be a hit with everyone. There is everything here including sitar and string sections. If the rest of the CD is up to this standard, it will be a miracle. The sitar continues with Limbe by S-Tone Inc, who puts a Western beat and bass riff on traditional Indian sounds and this makes a perfect combination. Mambatur starts with what appears to be a straightforward song, but the introduction of South American style percussion and other subtle effects pulls a loser out of the trap and into the winners enclosure. Its entitled Salpica. Bossa Nostra sings all about Jackie and this happy song will soon force you into humming the melody. The mood and beat on Stojne Bye Mome Koocanski by Macedonian Vanja Lazarova is a great song with bits of scratching etc. The following by Gare Du Nord is another excellent example of downtempo class exhibited on How Was It For You? The slide guitar featured on the finale Voulez-Vous by Arling & Cameron is a good way of finishing off this very pleasant collection of a dozen songs. How was it for me? Pretty good, I replied. (Brooky)
HINT. Portakabin Fever. Hombre/Ninja Tune. MEX036CD
I have been delaying the review of this CD for one reason only. The longer I avoid submitting my thoughts, the more often I have to play this CD. This is not a bad thing for me, but the record companies may not be too happy. I suppose I ought now to share these hidden delights to be found on this amazing collection of eleven tunes. At times it does sound as though it was recorded in a portakabin (which it actually was), but this is no criticism, as the results are quite remarkable and even liked by quite a wide circle of my friends (which is extremely unusual). Yes I suppose that I have fallen in love with this album, which no doubt will be completely ignored by most. If you could imagine a sound that combines electronics and indie in an instrumental package that is neither insipid nor out to shock then you'll find yourself becoming totally engrossed with the work of J James. I could mention a number of standout tracks, but my current favourite is Quite Spectacular, which just sums up this CD perfectly. (Brooky)
GOLDFRAPP. Black Cherry. Mute.
Black Cherry is the follow up release to 2000's Felt Mountain and a marked contrast to the smooth, lush feel of the latter. Black Cherry is much more schizophrenic but Alison Goldfrapp (vocals) and Will Gregory (synths) have created a very interesting album. It's a bit of a "back to the future" feel with influences drawn from 70's glam rock and 80's electropop. Nowhere does this manifest itself more than the tracks "Train" and "Slippage", "Slippage" whilst mainly instrumental seems to have the two sets of drums playing fused with dark sounding synths. "Black Cherry", the title track, is much calmer and smoother ballad and "Tiptoe" is very Kate Bush like in its vocal arrangement. Meanwhile "Hairy Trees" is very dream like and gives the impression of a performance toned down by a gauze screen. Other tracks of note include "Twist" with it's Salt'n'Pepa "Push it" riff and "Strict Machine" is very "Spirit in the Sky" meets "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode. Black Cherry is like a rollercoaster ride - there are a lot of twist and turns in it and when it's finished it leaves a little bit of a strange feeling inside, not knowing exactly why you've enjoyed it but enjoyable nonetheless. (Mickey Boy)
SI BEGG. Director's Cut. Novomute.
A very different style to this CD as thoughts turn back to Electro or is it. Well on the surface all seems quite normal, yet peering more closely the nagging impression still troubles the mind that all is not quite what it seems. Perhaps it's the way the long low frequency note starts the proceedings before DJ Rush acting as MC introduces the straightforward electronics. If that's all too simplistic, then the second track Grind gives the electronics a very funky feel. A recorder type sound starts the next track Buss before going off at a tangent with the help of Miss MC. On England, the robotic style vocals are almost set on an indie track. If that's not different enough for you, try to imagine rap on a drum and bass mix, this gives a flavour of Moveup. The ambient beginning of Kebabs follows before it develops in an orchestral style into an electronic piece. Airports has a frenetic start and races away even faster before the enviable slow down in the middle. Add the very modern electronic beats on V.I.P and the synth orchestration of the finale Time and you all should have realised that here's no ordinary release. Not instantly likeable, but this CD certainly grows on you. Please give it a chance and you'll know you did the right thing. (Philly)
TIM GERWING. Being To Bring. TGBTCD001
A Canadian who more than dabbles with synths and has composed soundtracks for various films and TV programmes. They describe it as a rare and alluring blend of sonic textures and spoken words. Who would believe a press release? I would in this instance and my reason for this is that I have listened to this exquisite CD four times and I am not getting fed up, in fact the more I listen the greater is my appreciation of these eleven pieces. When I first slapped this disc on the turntable (or should I say CD player), there were obvious favourites like Whenever You're ready and Bowl Of Light 1. Some of the others were quite good and the rest seemed rather ordinary. Obviously I was not paying attention - I now know the errors of my ways and rate all to be of excellent quality. For a debut, few artists will surpass this example. It's not all woolly performances and musical thoughts from a decade ago, as the mellow guitar chords and chanting is placed on a modern backdrop with quite a fast beat and a really interesting bass riff which makes part of the track entitled Fire. Take it from me that here is the answer to your chilled out musical dreams. You can order your copy now from http://www.dreamwindow.net/lascaux21. (Brooky)
FOG. Ether Teeth. Ninja Tune.
A difficult double LP to review, as I am not sure where to place this type of music, perhaps someone will invent a genre. The laid back opening soon changes as the slightly disconcerting chord structure and effects sets Plum Dumb alight. Then abruptly changing into the next track which has vocals right from the start. On See It? See It? A whimsical track with scratching and a modified clock, but this is just refrain. You won't have heard anything quite like this before, his voice is not the best in the world, but that does not really seem to matter. Sorrowful with piano lead, cackles of a campfire and a weird beat, his voice at times reminds me of Robert Wyatt, if not the sound, then the style of delivery. I like the title of fourth track, The Girl From The Gun Commercial, a song that is not complicated apart from the occasional discord and mayhem erupting before returning to the simple theme. Some may think that he is just mucking about in the studio, but these songs are very quirky and that's what's so appealing. I like Cheer Up Cheerily with a robin singing and sampled words, it all starts naturally enough until the feedback noise takes over. On Wallpaper Sink Or Swim, the inter play between guitar and other instruments is entertaining, then changes are made for a piano passage with vocals and sampled words. It's almost as the song is split into different movements. The Finale, Cardinal Heart features more bird singing and harmonisation against an ambient score. Looking for something a little different to impress your friends with, then Fog are for you. (Pb)
JAGGA JAZZIST. The Stix. Ninja Tune. ZEN81.
Here we have a combination of electronics and jazz musical sculptures woven together. The opener Kitty Wu is a complex mix of rhythms and melodies all excitingly assembled to make a memorable instrumental. The pace is much faster on the next piece Day with guitar riffs competing alternatively with the electric piano around the arrival of the brass section. On the flip side of the vinyl, Aerial Bright Dark Round, the vibraphone is used to great effect and within a melancholy brass section, mellow bass, subtle electronica and orchestral overtones, it has to be a winner. The start of the second disc sees a track called Toxic Dart displaying much more obvious electronics complete with a loud sax played in a traditional manner. It could be so shallow, but the electronics and guitar make it so special. Doppleganger is more electronic based but with a bit of jazz thrown in on a complex beat. The final side again veers away from the standard drum patterns. It's a good mix of old and very modern, the old being familiar brass sections, the new being the effects. It has quieter interludes, but also full-blown excitement. The title track again dispenses with the standard beat and replaces it with rhythmical patterns that are much longer than normal. This allows the brass again the freedom to express, not by just making random noises, but by being coherent within the very taught structure. Despite all the electronic gizmos, this seems to be quite a natural LP and is easy to listen to and more importantly enjoyable. It's one of those records that intrigue the mind because you're always on the lookout for those hidden melodies and subtle effects. (Philly)