LLORCA. New Comer. 2001 F Communications
There's quite a few genres used to describe Llorca, such as deep house, blue jazz, black soul and even ties to electronic music! Fair enough, I guess these elements are there but for me the main 'theme', for want of a better word, is jazz, basically, Whilst there's nothing to be ashamed of, jazz (like classical) tends to be a bit like a hazelnut whirl, with a nut centre. Llorca manage to put cool back into jazz, with heady beats, yet they throw in the odd ballad, which still features jazz elements. Not wanting to sound twee, but it's like all those great sounds of the jazz of the late fifties/sixties, especially Davis, but like Ramsey Lewis, bits of Corea and Hancock have all been assimilated by the Borg, and this is music from that collective. The production is full and rich, and all the tracks are worth checking out. It's not all instrumental, the voices of Lady Bird and Nicole Graham can also be had - and not sampled, singing, yes, proper singing! (Killer Joe).
CABARET VOLTAIRE. Conform To Deform - The Virgin EMI Years.
Shame, but I've only been sent cd 2 from a four cd set, so, as is often the case (and so annoying) a more accurate review can't be forthcoming. However, this cd has ten tracks featuring Ghost Talk, Just Fascination, Diffusion and Safety Zone, as well as the dub version of Sex, Money, Freaks (Kervorkian 12" Dub). CV were very much the pioneers of that special sound that gradually evolved. Like Depeche Mode, their original sound wasn't true to what it would become. They formed in the late 70s and had the guitar thrashing with tape loops and sample often getting classed as inaccessible. However, their sound become more synth based, but they began to concentrate and hone the cut ups, loops and samples to better effect. Whilst the band came from Sheffield, their sound wasn't like their neighbours ABC, or The Human League, indeed, if anything can be levelled at Sheffield, apart from a good cutlery set, it's the fact that almost all the bands that came from their were incredibly individual. As I've said, I'm not sure what the four cd set is like on the whole, but if this representation is anything to go by (and from what I've heard of them in the past), I reckon it'll be pretty good. If I do get the set, I'll let you know with a more detailed review, but I somehow doubt it. (Dw).
VARIOUS. Urban Chill. Universal
There are a whole plethora of "Chilled" albums out at present and Urban Chill uses R&B as the hook to hang its hat on. Unlike most of its "chilled" rivals there's none of the mixing various different styles of music (i.e. classical/pop/dance on one album), this is just pure R&B. If an album like this is supposed to chill you out then there could be no finer way of opening CD1 with India Iries "Video" and Angie Stones "No more rain", two great tracks beautifully delivered to set the ambiance of the album. This album is really chilled stuff and rarely breaks into a sweat, Gwen Dickeys vocals on Rose Royces "I'm going down" have a lot of passion and power in them but the musical arrangement of this track is very cool and when The Brand New Heavies get a little lively on "You've got a friend", the next track "Another day" by Buckshot LeFonque calms it all down. This album is a double with 37 tracks and whilst CD1 is impressive, CD2, though generally good, doesn't quite live up to the former, as invariably happens on double albums. However there are some gems on the second half such as "Soul sista" by Bilal, "Just friends" by Music Soulchild and "Demons" by Fatboy Slim feat. Macy Gray, but the essential atmosphere of the album is not lost and remains cool and soulful throughout. So if you are musing over the choice of "Chill Out" albums you won't go far wrong with Urban Chill.....if this album was any more laid back it would be horizontal. (Mike B)
FLANGER. Outer Space. Ninja Tune.
The third outing for the duo sees them using the essay Outer Space/Inner Space by J.G Ballard for their inspiration. Although their previous outings were completely electronically programmed, the jazz style of their music now includes contributions from guest musicians from Chile and Scandinavia, which gives a much smoother overall sound. Burnt Friedman and Atom TM blend a cool mixture of jazz with inspired electronics that ranges from the majestically beautiful to the harsh. Another interesting aspect is the fact the Friedman is in Cologne and Atom TM is based in Santiago de Chile and the musical ideas are blended and exchanged over the distances with ease. The CD opens with the title track that starts with electronic clicks, then goes through phasing before the fast, detailed percussion is mellowed by vibraphone allowing the saxophonist Thomas Hass freedom of expression. The 2nd track Galak is even more interesting combining downbeat jazz with mellow electronics. On Inner Spacesuit, the mood changes towards the end of the piece with ambient themes played on the guitar. The upright bass is to the fore on Le Dernier Combat and there is a lot of percussion on some of the tracks. The use of the vibraphone is common throughout this album and a good example of this is the quieter interlude called Unosietecero where the boundaries are extended gently without entering dangerous territory. I don't know how to describe their music: jazz, techno, fusion electronica, but it's very good. (Brooky)
VARIOUS. Winter Chill 3. Hed Kandi. HEDK022.
Continuing the theme of chilled out music designed for a cold winter's night, this label has amassed a collection of thirty songs from a variety songsters where the only common point is the laid back down tempo aspect. You would never get excited about these and the adrenaline would not pump, but that's not the point, it's all about relaxation and bearing that in mind, this is an impressive set. For those who believe that only instrumentals can fill this space, then think again as most of the contributions have vocals, mainly female. The CD opens with the delightful Dusted remix of Faithless's Evergreen, which sets the standard for the next 140 min. The second CD starts with a quieter track by the newly invigorated Depeche Mode (When The Body Speaks) and then gives way to Gabriel from the ever-dependable Lamb. You will be hearing more of the Dining Rooms, as their slow M Dupoint is a haunting instrumental where the melody is wrapped up with luscious orchestration before the onset of the powerful beat. Another great example of mellowness is Afterlife's Deeper - Into Places. There are numerous other highlights but suffice to say that this is indeed ideal music for this compilation. (Philly)
ARTHUR BAKER. Breakin'. Perfecto. PERFALB06CD
A double CD split into two halves of mixes by Arthur Baker. It starts with the Baker mix of The Illuminous by the Utah Saints that demonstrate the style of music called new skool. You have to look twice at the track The Feelin' by AB/DC, no, it's not a spelling mistake for ACDC, rather an interesting collaboration between the mixer and Dave Clarke. If you prefer the old skool then you'll enjoy Confusion by New Order, of course it's not the original, but a cleverly tweaked mix that fits perfectly into this set. A funky version of Happiness Is Just Round The Bend by Cuba Gooding will bring lots of pleasant feelings to the mind and If you like Will Downing's voice, then a Jazz house mix has been prepared of A Love Supreme. With plenty of disc spinning time, each lasting in excess of seventy min, then no one should dare to complain about value for money and as a bonus the music is pretty good as well! (Brooky)
VARIOUS. Obsessive Sessions - Winter Warmer.
This is an outstanding album, mixed by Mark Shade, which, to be honest, is a new name to my ears. Winter Warmer, however, certainly got my attention straight away from the moment it went on the cd player. Mark Shade certainly knows how to mix up stylish sounds, starting with chillout nu-jazz, progressing through to funky house. My favourite track has to be Streetlife Original's Laras Theme, definitely gets you in the mood. The album certainly reflects the London underground clubland moods incredibly well. There is a glut of new and unknown djs doing the release rounds via indie and even major labels, but this is certainly one that stands out, and believe me, I've heard a lot recently. I've been reliably informed (via the press release) that this is the second release for this series - just wish I'd have had the pleasure of the first. Absolutely superb. (James)
GALARIE STRATIQUE. Nothing Down
To Earth. Law & Auder. LA26CD
Lying somewhere in that murky world between ambient and electronica, the debut album by Charles Beullac contains all the hallmarks of a major musical work of art. You could easily imagine that he had released many previous albums and Nothing Down To Earth was just a mere continuation of a very fine string of instrumentals. The accomplishment of the textures presented here truly amaze as he combines the bold with the mellow, the striking with the melancholy and does it with style. It's one of those albums that could so easily pass you by, especially if you miss the opportunity to delve into the passages. Getting tired of this CD is just not possible, as the music only starts to unfold after numerous listens. That is not to state the instrumentals are inaccessible, far from it, they really operate on many different musical levels and you will find that the surface has only been scratched after three listens. The opener, Star Filter is rather short in length, but is one of those attention grabbers that leaves you wishing for much more. After the Arabian feel to Leviathan, the unusual aspects of Frozen Lakes haunt the mind with dreamy sequences, but this is tempered with distorted scratchy sounds used as a sort of drum beat. The penultimate Dictaphone again displays the maturity of his composition skills. To praise this CD would be a big understatement. (Brooky)
SPACEWALKERS/CYNYC. Iconoclast. Spacewalkers Entertainment. SWE001
A split CD featuring two different artist, the former providing a more commercialised sound in the electronic sphere, whilst the latter is much heavier with an industrial accent. The Spacewalkers comprise of R James and EJ who combine drum 'n bass; electronica, house and trance all into a friendly dance beat that can be listened to or danced to if the mood takes you. The opening track Tres Metal Star is a very commercialised version of synth pop and seems a little out of place when compared to more modern aspects of the next six instrumentals. The music could easily be played at any rave, yet if you listen closely it deserves better. My initial feeling of unease was soon displaced as I realised that behind this facade there was much more going on. Cynyc is the work of Mike Peaslee, a music journalist in LA who also designs the audio track to accompany the video games for Crystal Dynamics. The track Gentlemen grabs the attention not only because of the bass heavy beats, but the way the psychotic vocals are handled on what is essentially a drum 'n bass track but with lots of dark twists and turns added for good measure. A much richer sound is to be found on Magdolin where pseudo orchestration hides a tapestry of differing styles. His signing style will not be to everyone's taste, but the stark renditions certainly impart towards the general mood. Simplicity is a strange mixture of synth pop, moody guitar and weird electronic effects all giving the dispassionate vocals a detached feel. Of the two Cynyc is more interesting mainly because of the experimental way the compositions are put together. If you are fed up with the endless stream of sound-a-like dance bands, then the first release on this label could breathe new life into the tired dance market. (Philly)
TANGERINE DREAM. Dream Mixes III.
TDI Music. EFACD63031
Remix albums now come in three's! It is hardly surprising after the success of the previous two that these legendary instrumental music makers should continue to re-evaluate their music. It would be so easy to allow others to do the work, but Jerome and Edgar Froese do not simply tinker with an odd rhythm or tweak the odd note, but rather pull their own compositions to bits and then reconstruct them in a different format. For fans, this is not a time to become concerned as the familiar style has been retained, perhaps with an accentuation of the beat. So expect a much more purposeful journey through the grand opening track Prime Time. This will successfully occupy over ten minutes of your time, and it will seem to pass almost in an instant. The next track Astrophobia (Red Supernova Mix) will take many by surprise as this inspired alteration shows that the style of drum and bass is perfectly within their grasp. If you need further confirmation that this superb track must be the highlight out of the nine on offer, then as an added bonus it slowly mutates into a majestic piece with a classic rock beat. On Diamonds And Dust, the fast beat has been sampled from the club scene and the distinctive electronic melodies enhance the final outcome. You will not have heard TD in this frame of mind before as they display a very forthright upbeat tempo almost designed for the trance market. Blue Spears returns to the TD of old with the tightly sequenced riffs and lush melodies invoking thoughts of timeless instrumentals. The album finishes on a high note with The Comfort Zone providing ambient sections and tribal passages on a beat driven patchwork that is surely to become a classic. Probably the best Dream Mixes so far. (Brooky)
VARIOUS. The Wolf And The Moon - Drop 6. Mareriali Sonori. MASOCD90123
Sometimes an album just takes you by storm, and this is no ordinary storm. I suppose it could be classed as a remix project of the original choral record that was conceived by Arlo Bigazzi and Claudio Chianura. It features the work of Cheyenne poet Lance Henderson and his words have been set to a modern score that operates in that area loosely described as ambient electronica. It may sound drab on paper, but the speakers set the music alive. Alexander Robotnick kicks off the project with a drum 'n bass, In A Place, which successfully combines lush ambient moments with that hard drum sound. Choose an acoustic guitar on a fast bass drum, add a trumpet and sampled vocals and you get an incredibly infectious and memorable tune inspired by Militia with the very appropriate title Moonlit Dark. More dark and moody soundscapes are created by the collaboration between William Orbit and Hector Zazou on The Abandoned Planet (War Version). Add even more evocative elements by Richard Barbieri (ex-Japan) and No-Man and you have all the makings of a superb CD. Music of this quality only appears in very limited quantities and it is important to make sure you don't miss these eleven brilliant interpretations. Good is not a word strong enough to describe this album. (Tashman)
NEW ORDER. Get Ready. WEA. CD 8573 89621 2.
Okay, so I'm not overly familiar with anything other than a few of their better known stuff, such as Blue Monday, and ,er, Blue Monday (well, a few album tracks as well). I know they've not been the most happiest of bands with regard to their music, not quite Leonard Cohen, but pretty dark stuff nonetheless. So, you can imagine my surprise with this new album. It's absolutely superb, from the gorgeous Like Crystal through to Primitive Notion, stopping off at Someone Like You and Run Wild. I wouldn't say they've now got a jump for joy all happy sound, but it's certainly more brighter than I've heard. They've somehow managed to keep some musical icons within their material (such as 'that' bass, and the odd plodding lead harmony chops) with just more than a hint of synth, and yet they seemed to have got more focus for today. Rather than rehash, they've kind of done what a writer would do, study the market, write for said market, but keep in certain things that are crucial to that writer's identity. Does that make sense? New Order are more melodic, and all the more stronger for that. Cracking album. (dw).
CABARET VOLTAIRE. Remixed. EMI.
When the electronic area of music was developing and the robotic style became popular, it was given the title of electro and one of the seminal bands involved in making their mark in history was this duo. The electronic wizard, R H Kirk teamed up with vocalist S. Mallinder to explore an area brought about by the introduction of new technology. The music is mainly from the late eighties to the very early nineties, but remixed in a way that prevents the original being totally lost to the modern themes. The second track, Thank You America (Hevorkian Remix) is certainly the most up to date sounding as this progressive electro piece contains haunting melodies that balance the pounding beat. Bad language is included on the following Live Drum Jacknife mix of Here To Go, but it's doesn't become too offensive and what's more it possesses a very funky sound. The very Strange Mix of Easy Life is a welcomed instrumental that appears to be bold with sound emanating from the science labs of the 60's supplanted on a progressive bass riff. It fluctuates between old fashioned and modern in a bizarre way. If you are partial to be a mean beat and a vocal style that is reminiscence to that of the Shamen, then Keep On the Sweet Exorcist Mix will be to your liking. The Cabaret Voltaire Remix version of Runaway still shows echoes of electro, but the instrumental sound is brought forward by at least a decade and displays some of the notions of the cutting edge. This album is no curiosity from a bygone age as it shows some of the reshaped historical elements of music. (PeeBee)
MASTER SIMON WONG. Dancefloor
Mantras. Yellow Dragon Records. CDYDR0002
Some CD's are designed to be somewhat perplexing and here is one that fits the bill precisely. Wong does the impossible by trying to combine authentic ancient Buddhist mantras with some of the most modern dancefloor beats. At first it naturally takes a little time for these to be accepted and you could easily be forgiven for having a quiet snigger in the corner whilst coming to terms with these eleven songs. As the time moves on, you will soon find the music has the last laugh mainly because of their very infectious nature. As much as I try to resist, I find that I cannot dismiss this as pure hokum and have to admit defeat and say out loud that I do like this album. Phil Earle of Law and Auder fame had a mixing hand in some of the tracks and this is very evident on the fifth track, Padmakumara. I was amused by the spoken introduction to Can You Remember on which a memorable beat and electronics are added. It has a strange infectious nature that certainly grows with time. For beautiful melodies almost taken from a pacific island incorporating the cry of a baby and the spoken words of Tania Levin gives Rebirth Mantra a very pleasing aspect. The last track From Master Wong is probably the most commercialised and yet it is the best of a very good bunch. (Pb)
SALLY OLDFIELD. Flaming Star.
New World Music. NWCD 506.
A stunning mix of mesmerising vocals and haunting melodies, like Enya meets Moby! Well that's what it says on a sticker adhered to the shrink-wrapping. This is Sally's first album for New World Music and is a spiritual adventure to rejoice her overwhelming certainty in the meaning of life and it's interconnections with all life forms! There is a lot of repetition in the lyrical content of these songs, i.e. chanting but it's not done to the detriment of the songs and there's a brilliant inter- weaving of voices to go along with the aforesaid melodies. Sally of course is the sister of Mike & Terry Oldfield and started her musical career in the late seventies. There are some superb spiritually laden lyrics and the recording is very spacial at times with very clear definition of instruments. There is a re-mix of Sally's hit single 'Mirrors' which utilises chanting and dance rhythms, its all quite strange in a good sort of way and as you listen it can become a little mesmerising. OK with me. (Zaphod)
ILLUMINATI. Illuminati. Planetsounds.
It was a couple of issues back that I received Planetsounds first album which consisted of many artists stretching their electronically experimental legs, so I was well prepared for the aural onslaught when this ep arrived. With the exception of the guitar on Winter Fire by Tim Jones (Fflint Central), all the five tracks are performed, written, produced mastered and mixed by Dave Clarkson. A busy man I hear you say? The ep's well balanced, kicking off with a truly experimental Constantinople, which features washes of sfx. Winter Fire, on the other hand is a magnificent ambient piece which wouldn't be out of place on an album by Eno, or Zazou - incredibly simple yet beautifully evocative. Track 3, Hertzlow sounds like your speakers have a virus and are doing their best to shake it off. The track benefits from being around forty seconds, because too much of this would spoil that initial blast zone. Argenteum, track 4, is, again, at almost opposite ends of the experimental spectrum. The relative order of the track suddenly breaks down around one and a half minutes, coughs and splutters, then reassumes itself. This method is used a few times, but each time something new, or more audible appears. It's like an electronic crystal growing in cycles. Seaghost Of Snape Island is, again, full of sfx but there's the odd undercurrent of a superb ambient piece, that annoyingly disappears too often. On the whole a remarkable collection of aural experiences that, at turns, startle and pacify. Check out their website for more details about this little beaut. (Dw).
CARYA AMARA. Vestigal Digital.
Earthrid Records CA01CD.
Love the 'file under' section: Aggressive Ambient. Wether by luck or design, that really sums up what's on offer by Carya Amara. There's a total of nine tracks, each one seems to use a different angle and approach to this new(ish) genre of cut and paste electronic experiments. Carya Amara has used in equal amounts both natural and electronic methods to mix and blend a wide range of colours and depth. Nietzsche Is Dead, which kicks off the album mixes opera snippets with electronic sfx and frightening processed vocals. The middle to end section could be used on Eraserhead! Job's Torturer commences with vocals and a truly spooky collection of screams and moans, befitting the title of the track rather well. As I said, Carya Amara uses both vocals and sfx to great effect, especially on the first three tracks. Orthodox Sea is as atmospheric as hell, bringing to mind one huge Jules Verne style leviathan trundling across the Atlantic, why? Feck knows, but you listen to it and see if you don't agree. Perhaps the most impressive is Wind Versus Windscale, which is in three parts: Blowy Day, On The Beach and The Tao Of Power. Words simply can't describe what's going on here. If you're at all familiar with Fflint Central or Planetsounds, or even Electronic Musik, then you will have no problem here, pioneering stuff indeed. (Dave W)
Si*Sé. Si*Sé. Virgin.
Si*Sé (pronounced See-Say) were formed two years ago by singer Carol C and DJ U.F.Low and they bring together a mix of drum'n'bass, percussion, strings and acoustic guitars. The whole album is a concoction of sounds twisting and turning throughout and certainly keeps the listener on their toes. Carol C's voice has got a Sadé style, slightly less sultry but just as smooth and this really comes through most effectively when she sings in Spanish. The opening track of "Slip Away" has a very Spanish/Latin influence with an Asian style percussion and starts the album off well which follows on in "The Rain (Where Do I Begin)" a reworking of Orange Juice Jones hit of 1986 that gives a new individual feel to an old song. "Steppin Out" has a much more Drum'n'bass feel to it whilst "Burbja" effuses a reggae style with violas. The downfall of the album has to be the mid section which seems to fade away and become a little banal given it's lively start but this is overcome by a good finish when the roller cost of sounds and influences come back into play. Si*Sé are at their best when they are doing their Spanish thing, "Cuando" is very lively, but the best by far is "Bizcocho Amargo" with its Spanish vocals and guitar beautifully intertwined in perfect harmony but with the sting in the tail of this track of a little bit of hip-hop. Certainly Si*Sé with its eclectic style has probably got a bit of something for everyone and is worth a try if only for its diversity. (MB)