ROBERT RICH & IAN BODDY. OUTPOST. DIN. DIN11
Some albums takes you by storm, whilst others gently stimulate the mind and it's only after a while that the intrigue takes over the thoughts. This is another release in the exploration series of fine contemporary electronica from the highly respectable DIN stable. Always challenging and never bland, these ten tracks continue to explore the boundaries between music and textures, with an assortment of beats, melodies and rhythms or perhaps lack of them. You may have already gathered that this CD will not be found in any school kids' collection, which is a shame, as they don't know yet what they are missing. Both artists have been involved in electronic music for more than twenty years, so does experience count? They use a variety of sound sources ranging from old analogue synths to the most modern digital signalling processing. The impressive opener First Outpost, starts in almost a random way before a semblance of structure evolve as it flows seamlessly into the aptly named Ice Fields. The bleakness of Edge Of Nowhere imparts a chilled existence even when the loud melodic phrases enter the mix. Some people may not class these instrumentals as music, instead saying that they are just a weird assortment of notes and sounds strung together. I can counter those arguments easily and say that they have simply not listened to the music, not even given it a chance to push their narrow established boundaries aside. It may take up to four listens to really appreciate what Rich and Boddy are doing, yet the rewards are just waiting on the fifth play. (Brooky)
CHEMICAL BROTHERS. Come With Us.
It has taken 18 months, locked away in a London studio to deliver their latest epic and the promising start of the single It Began In Afrika is certainly born out throughout the album. The music ranges from techno workouts too much quieter performances of surprising sounds. On the whole this package is much more robust than previous offerings and shows the Brothers in a defiant mood where their confidence to experiment is enraptured in great beats and remarkable melodies. It bounces along very well until the fifth track hits your ears and suddenly you are presented with the most brilliantly engineered selection of beats that will appear during this decade. Hoops is not only a highlight but due to the twists and turns, the sense of fun is always present during the fluctuations between the dark heavy sections and the melodic acoustic guitar riffs. These, along with the sampled chorus will tease the brain for hours after the album has finished. If that wasn't sufficient, then the following My Elastic Eye starts like a demented musical box with an equally mad early synth providing the rhythm to another impromptu collection of assorted beats. The way the music is assembled is impressive to say the least and it is not for them to just carry on repeating the same old riffs. The finale is a fitting tribute to their skills as the soaring vocals of Richard Ashcroft are put to the ultimate test in a glorious display ranging from the moody start to upbeat main section. It's called The Test and Tom and Ed have no worries. (Brooky)
FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON. Papua
New Guinea Translations. Jumpin' & Pumpin.
Ever since I first heard this track back during the 90s, I have always been mesmerised by the sheer beauty amid the grandiose pseudo orchestral score of this instrumental. Now, after a 5-year gap, the duo of Garry Cobain and Brain Dougans release an album of translations. I suppose it could be classed as a single but with the playing time being just a little short of the hour mark, then maybe not. It starts with the 12" single version to remind us that it is indeed timeless music. The second track Papisco is quite down tempo and beautifully crafted. On Lovers, the double bass provides a lovely vibe onto which a marvellous funky sound is added. There are also lots of other styles intermingled to add spice. It is the turn of psychedelic guitars to perform on the next episode and in contrast the 5th balances industrial noises, screeching guitars and the soaring of gulls. The banjo leads the way before the religious harmonies takes over on Requiem. It's all change once again where the organ sound dominates but not to the extent of overwhelming that large mellow jazz feeling. The final instalment looks to the East for inspiration (if it was needed) and traditional Indian sounds such as the Sitar and the Tabla provide the closing mantra. I cannot speak too highly of this remix album. Fans and others who appreciate music have had to wait a long time, but it's been worth it. Blooming marvellous! (Mr. Brook)
COUSIN SILAS. Lilliput. Fflint Central BLAS012.
Got this little bugger afore Dave W could get his sweaty hands on it, well, he has a copy but he's let me review it. He's been going about how good and innovative Fflint Central are, I thought, okay, let's check this out and see if we can validate his unswerving loyalty. Not quite an ep, more of a mini album, Lilliput contains seven tracks, and it kicks off with View From A Room. The track has a repeating four or five note pattern that is strangely compelling, especially with the noise of the crickets. Over the top of this, synth sfxs dive in and out of earshot culminating in something that sounds like a million birds taking flight before a prison door slams shut, ending the soundscape. Moorgate, the second track, is about the 70s Tube crash (I have this on good authority). It's a sinister piece that slams straight into your solar plexus and sets the imagination reeling about all the nasty things that would have been found there, the drivers face before impact (and after, maybe), y'know, all the stuff that we're supposed to look away from. Warlock Hill is perhaps my favourite as it's the most ambient of the tracks. Eno-esque synths wash like waves as something akin to a hunting horn sounds in the distance. There's also the odd phrase from an electric guitar as well as one or two bells. Rather sweet. Setting The Clinch features a heavily morphed dance beat and something similar to what could only be described as an old wobbly organ. All this is washed in deep reverb, and at one point the beat manifests into something almost like a steam train in a tunnel. The title track would appear to be a celebration on the alter of reverse. Hints of phasing trundle through a backdrop of reverse cymbals and beats with the odd haunting vocal and aural steam - you want to hear this stuff! Garden Of Pale Children is simply a piece with about a thousand babies, all crying, all in various degrees of distress, reversed, normal speed, slowed down, sampled and mixed to form a pretty disturbing canvas - moving, yet scary. The final piece is Chamber 7 Vat 3. This reminds me of something I read on a website about an underground alien base where experiments were carried out, and the results were kept alive in something called the hall of nightmares. I wonder if Silas read the same stuff? Horribly uncomfortable. Well, what can I say. I agree with Dw, Fflint Central seem to go beyond the reaches of music and actually, at times, create something almost tactile, music that sometimes disturbs, makes you really think... Could this be reality music? Scared the feck out of me! (Leaky Geen)
FARFIELD. Beginning To Freeze.
In the complex world of ambient music, only the serious listener takes any notice of these unusual textures. This is despite the fact that many have heard an abundance of this style. Advertisements and background scores for holiday and educational programmes are riddled with excerpts and so perhaps people should take more than a brief passing interest. Any thoughts of consigning albums such as this one to the musical dustbin of history are indeed behind the times. The eleven tracks all have a great feel and some are very majestic in their outlook including the stunning title track and opener. I adore Red Isotopes, with its icy persona and ultimate desolation providing some of the most evocative music you're likely to hear this side of the millennium. In contrast Narcotic Shade is much more up-tempo with a beat and a very haunting melody line. Beginning To Melt lasts for less than a couple of min. and so doesn't fall into the assumed category of long drawn out laborious pieces and has a guitar feel to it. Neon is pure brilliance with great bass notations, perfect understated piano playing and sympathetic percussion - I could so easily just listen to this one track. The 11 tracks were written between 1994 and 2001 and most have not been previously released. The only exceptions are a couple of tracks for compilations. I have difficulty in accepting that most of his music has been hidden away from public view as though the standard is not high enough. If this is his worst, then his best must be exceptional. I have already mentioned the title track, which is stunning and so is the rest of the album. Order it now. (Brooky)
It is only available on CDR through the website www.ambientmusic.co.uk/freeze.html or to Emusic.com subscribers.
SPUHL. Betweening. Hand Held Halo
Three tracks make up this splendid electronic beatfest, and whilst the titles aren't exactly inspiring (Betweenthing 1, 2 & 3!) the music certainly is. On track 1, Sfx and sound samples (sounds like James Earl Jones) wash in and out of a cracking set of beats. An almost electronic sounding sitar gives it a strangely retro feel as the backdrop builds slowly into a frenzy, and then slowly each sound is eradicated until completion with a quick fire drum pattern. Track 2 is more surreal and ambient. The beats don't seem as up front as track one. This track benefits from constant washes of sound and the odd industrial effect giving it a more atmospheric feel. Half way through, though, the beats become more pronounced and give added conviction to the overall sound. Track 3 seems to concentrate on adding effects to the actual beats, and at times there's the odd hint of dub. This piece is perhaps the most laid back, especially the almost sub level sound that comes in with the cinematic soundscapes and effective sfx. I reckon this is perhaps the best track, almost verging on Portishead here! (Dw)
IRMIN SCHMIDT & KUMO. Masters
Of Confusion. Spoon 45.
As you should be aware Schmidt was a founding member of Can. He is the piano/keyboard player and has had a load of soundtrack albums out, as well as a few solo projects. Indeed, this album is classed as 'a can solo project', and he's got a chap called Kumo assisting him on electronics and percussion. On this album, Kumo (Jono Podmore) constructs a miscellany of drum sounds and structures, constantly changing the beat and colour, as Schmidt rallies along on the piano with flurries of the ol' black and whites. Schmidt rises to many challenges of structure and speed incredibly well, and there are times when you're left open mouthed with the pure dexterity of the man's playing. Each one of the eight tracks are fairly substantial, not one of them failing to reach above the five minute mark. The album kicks off with Goatfooted Balloonman (even here we're getting Can-ish titles!), which tears through some dance type beats as Schmidt plays along on the piano with some startling passages. Beauty Duty and Those Fuzzy Things, again, show the incredibly symbiosis and dexterity of the pair. Not quite the album you might expect, but a classy and well constructed one nevertheless. (Dw).
SEPTEMBER DUOS & SEPTEMBER
WINDS. Creative Works Records CWR 1036 & CWR 1038/39.
I guess the best way to start this review is to take you on a guided tour! There's an underground water reservoir on the Zuerichberg. It was built in 1922 but hasn't been used for years. Get a few improv specialists, arm them with stuff like saxes, trombones, clarinets, flutes and get them to play down there. Mad? Maybe, but due to the, at times, spooky acoustics, they manage to produce a strange, other worldly album. The September Winds double cd features Hans Anliker, Evan Parker, Reeto Senn and Jurg Solothurnmann. The first cd consists of twelve tracks which introduce the improvisations steadily, and after a few minutes you are there! Obviously, because the res in disused, it's obviously empty, so the sounds that this lot produce seems, at times, to reverberate for ever. It's this angle that the others utilise and weave their material into. As that builds, so more is created, outside and independent of the musicians. Obviously they allow for the quiet to return otherwise the noise would be just that, a noise. The second cd, with the giveaway title of Almost One Hour, which is fifty nine minutes and fourteen seconds, take you straight into the deep end (pun intended). The Duos album features Evan Parker and Peter A Schmid. This features eight tracks, such as Bugs, Flies And Mosquitos, Lichen and Worms. Inventive, challenging and ultimately rather rewarding. (Dw).
VARIOUS. A Better Living through
Chemistry. Dragonfly. BFLCD54
Trance, these days come in all different packages that range from the exceptionally easy going tunes (the commercialised sounds as played on TOTP for under developed ears) to the real hard stuff. Dragonfly is not likely to satisfy these pre-teens with the nine meaty anthems presented here. The instrumentals are tough and very resilient to repeated exposure and unless you are a fan, the names and tracks will be meaningless. That little aspect should not dissuade you from sampling some of the better sounds from this harsh musical world. This is the real music played in those real clubs where the audience really appreciates a stonking beat. The opener by 12 Moons is typical of the fare, where the beats pulsate like a shining Beacon, no wonder it's appropriately titled Beacon as the melody and rhythms positively dazzle. I normally prefer to listen to music at a low- ish volume, but that doesn't do it justice, so I had better get those 35 watts blasting out. If your thinking that's a feeble system then perhaps I ought to say that it is sited in the small bedroom on my workstation. With growling basslines and moody melodies, Aphid Moon's Upgrade hits the spot with menacing results. Dark and twisted describes the tracks by Transparent and Black Sun rather well, but as I have said throughout this review, the music takes no prisoners and is very tough. If you are getting fed up with the sugar coated diet of music that is lighter than a fairy cake then take a big chunk out of this sumptuous offering. (Philly)
KANDA BONGO MAN. The Very Best
Of. Nascente NSCD089
Africa provides one of the richest mixing pots where musical styles from all over the continent (and beyond) come together and create new offshoots. Soukous is one such style - mix together Cuban rhythms and Congolese traditional music and dances and you get a hot new dance music that exploded across the Congo and West Africa. One of the biggest stars of Soukous is Kanda Bongo Man and this new compilation pretty much puts together the definitive introduction to one of Africa's heroes. The music on this CD is hot, literally and figuratively - it might not have the turgid beats of the techno or house club music but it is vibrantly alive and only the braindead are able to resist it. None of the tracks on the CD will be widely known here in the UK, except to aficionados of a few clubs where African dance music is played. But that doesn't mean that tracks such as Lyole, Zing Zong, Liza and Cantique won't win your heart, mind and dancing shoes. An album to bring the smile to your feet! (Johnny Boy)
KENT CARTER. Beauvis Cathedral.
Classed as Cello and double bass solos and collages, this is a very intense and, at times, quite electric album. Anyone who's well into the contemporary work of, say, Lutoslawski, or Zemlinski (always a 'ski!) will probably find these recordings intensely satisfying. If you're not into classical, let alone modern classical, I would tread very, very carefully here. The opening track, a cello solo called Pinch, lasts just under ten minutes, and is amazing. I always thought of the cello as a sombre and melancholy instrument, but I have my reservations now! Carter takes the cello through acrobatics, loop the loops and somersaults as well as around the houses to get as much emotion and colour as he can. It's much the same with the double bass. What I did enjoy was that every now and then, with a certain twist, he gives the listener some incredibly beautiful passages. It's not all, as some would say, making the instrument do what its not supposed to do. Michala Dance, the title track, Steps and, of course, Pinch all contain some genuine and intense improvisations that, like I've said, boil, simmer, and bubble with invention. (Dw).
CELESTIUM. Ideology. Lentil Soup
Their second encounter within the CD medium, but this time on a new label, the duo of Neil and Alison still retain the general musical notations from their debut. Neil does all the hard work of manipulating the synthesisers whilst Alison provides the vocal components, which in the main are of a harmonising nature. The music borders on ambient and all things electronic, but mainly stays within the heavy trance sound. Take for a very good instance the opening track Kali, where a vaguely ambient beginning soon exhibits the flavours from India before transforming itself into a classic slab of trance. Kundalini kicks off with a slightly disjointed sound showing the pioneering aspect of electronica, before that hard trance beat pounds the floor. You know that this is not for fainthearted children, but aimed at the serious listener. After the opening vocals, a menacing psychedelic trance beat encompasses Sorcerer, where the melody submits to the rhythm. Aoum is a lengthy workout designed to get the adrenaline pumping after a very quiet and slow start. The repetitive industrial clanking noise becomes quite addictive to the mind until piece morphs back into a more soothing mood. Labyrinth explores the complex world of percussion to perhaps show off a more standard trance package, yet underneath there is a lot more lurking in depths of this mix than greets the ears initially. More deep rhythms and beats are present on Kojiki before the final track Avalon calms the senses. It is more suited to the chill out market and as such is totally brilliant. In many ways this is a more polished performance than their debut and it should deserve recognition. (Brooky)
PSYCHIC TV. Peak Hour. Tin Toy. TTCD013
I know this is a re-mastered outing of a release made over a decade ago, but it is fascinating to compare whether the test of time has been kind or not. Written by Genesis P. Orridge, whilst exiled in the States due to his involvement with Throbbing Gristle, the band that caused all that controversy so many years ago. This was not recorded in the conventional way, due to Orridge's reluctance to be seen in the studio; instead he conducted the events from various phone booths. This was to prevent the witch-hunt being successful. The opening track e-mail is basically melodic techno that has not lost any of its vibrancy. Dreamlined has a sort of lost melody that imparts a free flowing compositional style. Most people will accept the very good Tribal with its friendly dance beat and catchy vibes. It is not just simply a repackaged and re-mastered CD as there are three extra remixed tracks. The first is the Coinci/dancemix of Tribal by the highly respected Drum Club, which has all the hallmarks of their particular sound, and then the Analogue Sea Mix imparts a different flavour of the same track. Finally, Return to The Sea Psychic TV Remix of Godzilla gets a rare airing, a fitting tribute to a former member of the much-maligned Throbbing Gristle. (Brooky)
PUCHI. Soundtrack. Plump. PCD001
The duo of Niroshini Thambar and Nik Paget-Tomlinson who recorded this CD at the greatly named Plump Studios in Edinburgh, have successfully managed to make their soul filled instrumental music full of great warmth. Take for instances the opening track Time Lapse, where the modified string section compliments the basic track with beauty. The following track Deep Space goes for a truly melodic line that must be one of the most haunting pieces that I have heard for ages. The percussion is not flabby as it is very modern taking notes from the drum 'n bass area and mixing in aspects of speed garage, there is much here to commend. I know that this is going to be one of those late night favourites that will compel the owner to play them. They're not all electronic compositions as the trumpet is used to great effect on three tracks, double bass on one and a moody sax on the final piece. I said that this was an instrumental, well basically it is but there are a couple of vocal contributions by Kaela Rowan in which she harmonises rather than sing any particular lyrics. On Nice Tones, a moody atmosphere is created by the slowly developing succulent strings and growling synth that is nicely balanced by the effective use of tablas. The piano is used sparsely to provide a very laid back feel to Aeolian, where lots of subtle scratching underpins the whole track. If you have not yet realised that this is a brilliant album, then you must have been skip reading this review!
ALISTAIR MURPHY. Islands. Cromerzone.
Lying distinctly in the ambient sphere, this album is quite a surprise as the normal themes are missing. How can this be, well the five tracks all sway in different directions. The opening track appears to offer the standard fare, with the quiet sparse beginning, but then the harmonising vocals destroy any thoughts of pure ambience. It all about Wake and for those geographical enthusiasts, the longitude and latitude references are included for completeness. The following track Water is a beautiful evocative piece that just oozes the sometimes-turbulent nature of the weather surrounding this area. It varies from the dark and mysterious to the light and buoyant passing via many differing musical patterns on the way including what appears to be a cross between a harpsichord and a piano. Midway consists of a haunting looped phrase onto which other sympathetic rhythms are added to slowly fill the piece out into a majestic soundtrack. Believing this to be another ambient outing, I was shocked when the voice sang out loud and clear. Diana Hare is the guest vocalist who provides the haunting accompaniment to the music. The saxophone played by Laurie A'Court is use to great effect on Ocean, with its soaring scales riding the waves with such ease. I like this album and hope that through these pages, it will receive a wider audience. (Brooky)
It can be bought from 1, Garden Cottage, Felbrigg Road, East Runton, Norfolk. NR27 9PE or visit www.cromerzone.uk or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (Philly)
SILVER APPLES. MCA. 1116802
A duo ahead of their time, says the press release, now available on the lower price catalogue of Universal, the re-release of this album allows us to compare with hindsight, just what barriers were broken. The banks of percussion and home-made oscillator synths gave a strange mixture of madrigal pop meets Kraftwerk. The vocals may not be to everyone's liking, but the music is still sufficiently different. The opening track Oscillations displays a quirky feel with distant percussion and an abundance of early synth sounds moulded together to form a patchwork musical quilt. The percussion on the next track Seagreen Serades again follows a simplistic pattern, but this time originating out of the other stereo speaker. The vocals again have a light sound that occasionally prevents much feeling being introduced and the recorder like sound lets this piece swing more towards the pop side of the business. The sound is very distinctive and if I was to make a small criticism, then the variety between tracks is quite marginal. Definitely a curiosity recording that evokes memories of those early experimental days. At first there is a natural reluctance to overlook this CD, but once you can accept the singing style, then a strange fondness soon starts. (Peebee)
ASTRALASIA. Something Somewhere.
Well known in the glorious trance circuit for offering a mixture of sub styles, their latest offers a slight departure from the norm. The opening track, Her Majesties Prelude it a pseudo orchestral section that naturally has a regal aspect and it's impressive in its execution. This flows into a trance stormer Prophecy Of Life. My original impression gave the opener lots of marks, but the following two seemed just to be almost run of the mill. On the second instalment, it is now patently obvious that I was not paying attention as the third track Out There contains a racy theme and harmonising vocals that soar against the pounding beat. It's one of those pieces that entice you to keep reaching for the volume control just to tweak it up a lot. Shine features a dub style bass along with angelic harmonisation and the male voice of dub to make a forceful precursor to Her Majesties. Again the majestic overtures herald a shimmering score of beauty that demands attention. The bold score offers a dramatic backdrop to make it the highlight of the album. Astralasia are back and certainly on top form. (Brooky)
mULTIPLEX. Demo. CDR.
I haven't heard anything from Multiplex in ages, so I thought I'd get back in contact and see if they'd been snapped up, yet, by a label. Sadly they haven't, but happily, they're still plugging away. Don't get me wrong, they've done several projects where their music has been used for a variety of sources, but, nothing concrete. They have had a few singles out on a variety of labels (and although I've asked said labels, I ain't had anything sent). This cdr is, basically, a kind of rounding up of some of their material from cassettes and the odd remix and project, so it's great to hear some of the cassette material on cd, where it rightly belongs. Multiplex manage to create, via electronica, an incredible wide array of styles from dance through to ambient, and whilst I prefer the latter, they do their job incredibly convincing. Mind you, it might be this wide range of styles that detracts the more specialised labels? One of my favourites has got to be Ardoonay Varsu Barragus, which was an ep released back in '96, an absolutely gorgeous ambient journey. Tracks such as Vortak and Neitek are aimed more towards the harsher sounds more akin to Aphex Twin, and whilst Rock Robot and E-Lextik are brilliant dance tracks, they don't inspire me as much. The last track, Bevet (at least I think that's how it's spelt) is a clever cross of chill, ambient and dance. For me there's more than enough on here to fulfil the needs of any A&R person, but maybe Multiplex need to send the more dancier tracks to some companies, and the ambient to others. I know there are exceptions, but usually ambient and dance (especially of the range on offer on this cd) don't make for comfortable bedfellows. Maybe? Maybe not, but I reckon it might be worth a try. As I said, I'd prefer the more ambient material, but not everyone's the same are they? Email them for more details on email@example.com(DW).