MURCOF. Martes. Leaf. BAT23CD
Tijuana, Mexico is probably best known for its' Brass! Martes you'll be pleased to hear doesn't resemble any Latin MOR score. Instead by stretching the envelope of sound, Fernando Corona displays a masters touch, adept at mixing the classical with the minimal techno. This sought after composer and remixer has shown that his liking for 20th century classical music has not interfered with making a debut album that stands head and shoulders above most others dealing with contemporary electronica. In fact it has assisted in producing a much wider picture that is simplistic on the surface and yet very complex underneath. Few albums sound positively brilliant on first and subsequent hearings. Murcof has found a niche in the market that hasn't been covered and has exploited it with panache. Beauty can be found on all the 9 tracks despite the weird electronic noises and pulses. A typical example being Mapa, where the ethereal harmonies enhance the electric mood to a spine tingling climax. This record label is certainly growing in stature and releases like this can only enhance the reputation of the company. (Brooky)
VARIOUS. Collection 1. Ambient Explorations And Grooves. Databloem. DBCD001
It's always very reassuring to find the first release on a new label, as it hopefully gives a good indication to the state of said label. What is even more gratifying is the fact that these five ambient pieces are not just time fillers, but are actually exceptionally interesting. I have not heard of any of the artists, but that matters little when the music quality is so high. All the tracks last for around quarter of an hour and each features a differing aspect. Aperture by the Circular Ruins seems to be split into two sections, the main theme followed by a slower section which stimulates the mind. The next track by Mutagene is initially the most attractive as A Borrowed Skin accompanied a Canadian feature documentary called Ironson and it contains some of the most aurally inspiring works that has graced my CD player. I can tell that this album is one that I will return to and keep returning to. Spheroid's Embedded Neptune is a slower piece that reminds me of a typical Pete Namlook outing that should be played in the small hours. A very moving and evocative occasion to completely unwind to. Kwook's Kwookyworld is another section of aural textures and sound manipulation a little akin to Tangerine Dream and is totally brilliant. The remarkable finale Encounter by the Civilized Electrons starts very quietly and is perhaps in the same mould as Biosphere. I have been delaying writing this review purely so I can listen to this album again and again. I normally only play them three times, but after six goes, I feel that I'm only just getting the better of these marvellous compositions. (Philly)
VARIOUS. Single Life - The 12" Collection. Transient. TRANR635CD
We all known how infuriating it can be for collectors of music to have to resort to playing vinyl when their pristine super hi-fi CD player is just idling around. Well Transient have partly answered their prayers with a 10-track sampler of some of the choice moments from their 12" back catalogue. I have to admit the opener is sheer class by Purple and Ronan, where a great beat forms a backdrop to meaty anthems and melodic passageways that morphs throughout its life - Future Blue bridges the gap between club and serious trance. Exploring the techno side of trance is Quirk with Tribodelic where the bass lines do mean serious business. Astral Projection have always stayed on the side of delivering a powerful study subtly modified with melodic overtones and flowing sequences that are not easily forgotten. Anything Is Possible fits their portfolio perfectly. The Visitors is a collaboration between Cosmosis and Shakta that contains all the classic lines needed to ooze quality. Zero Gravity by 12 Moons shows how much the Scandinavian trance market has progressed during the last few years by the combination of growling bass lines and funky attitude. An essential part of the trance collection and one can only look forward to the next release. (Philly)
SPEEDY J. Loudboxer. Novamute.
This is Speedy J's third album for Novamute, and in my humble opinion is the best one yet. The album is kind of split into halves, the first part has a more chilled feel, very ambient but still bursting with energetic electronic beats. The second half is more purist techno, none of your commercial pap here. Some of the stand out tracks include: Reneter, which kicks off the album and Bihum, which ends the first half. The next section begins with Kreck, pounding in at over 140bpm. Speedy J (or to use his Sunday name Jochem Paap - cracking last name) the quality just gets better, and continues with Seventrak, and Bugmod before it gets really mental on Krikc live. Outstanding. This CD is a must for any techno purist. (Jim Bob)
PETER FROHMADER. 2001. Nekropolis
The picture inside the inner sleeve depicts the man surrounded by an assortment of electronic devices, a computer and an old Revox A77 reel to reel tape recorder in what looks like a converted study. Despite the cluttered appearance, the set up obviously works well, as the electronic music spans a variety of styles and is forever changing not only in tempo but also in mood. The first minute is very reminiscent of progressive trance, yet it transforms itself more towards the electronica side of the business. Large Screen does give a flavour of the wider picture presented on these ten tracks. Ethereal Dance is quite an oddity in its inception yet the bold beats and friendly riffs have my vote any day. Even stranger is the percussion at the start of the following track Java Talk, but don't worry as a more standard pattern starts to emerge. The finale Landing contains a menacing beat and what sounds like very heavily modified vocals to scare the pants of the listener. The album is quite a strange mixture as the twists and turns of the instrumentals never allow the mind to become bored. It's not easy to follow as the fault, if there is one is with the listener and not the performer. Music that is forever going off at tangents is a mild description, but most of it is filled with beats and rhythms. I definitely like his style. (Philly)
SFT. Swift. Mute CDSTUMM197.
SFT, also known as Simon Fisher Turner, first came to my attention via an early (and classic) album called Revox, then we had Schwarma (and, no doubt several others, but I ain't heard them ). Swift is a double cd (one dvd) that boasts twenty pieces of music, film and silence. Well, you don't need me to review silence, and seeing as though I ain't got a dvd player, you'll have to settle with the music! SFT's 'music' mainly consists of sound collages, often underpinned with percussion, and of late he's used a lot of instruments that aren't that familiar on Western ears. The great, hardly untapped arena of World music contains a wealth of strange and almost mystical instruments that SFT weaves into often familiar percussive patterns, spliced with vocal or synthetics. The tracks on Swift could almost be classed as a culmination of all the influences and styles that SFT's been working on. Tracks like Silent Surface has a Henry Cow/Jazz feel to it, whereas Strew is like Prodigy meets Mike Oldfield with JJ Jarre at the mixing desk. The music is experimental yet at times it's got solid, recognisable foundations. Swift is a good reference point in two ways, like I've said, it kind of brings all his influences together, and it's also a good place to hear what this man has to offer. (Dw)
MANMADEMAN. Cell Division. Transient.
When detailing the musical operators within the adult trance market, then this duo falls into the respected category. Listening to the CD, it does not take long to realise that Sonya Bailey and Paul Baguley have not chosen to appeal to the lighter end of the trance spectrum. These nine hefty tunes rely on repetitive beats, complex rhythms and lots of subtle electronic effects to balance the overall production. It will not meet everyone's tastes, but that is not intended as a criticism rather a compliment. The fourth track And All That does venture more towards the more commercialised sounds, but the string effects on a beautiful piano score at the beginning gives way to a serious beat. I have to acknowledge the next track Get Up And Beat has one of the most infectious beats that has passed my ears in ages and is tempered by the use of sweet sounding strings. The last track very suitably titled Breeze is one of those standout chilled trance moments that you wish would last forever. (Philly)
BIOSPHERE. Shenzhou. Touch. TO55
I always look forward to a new album by Geir Jenssen, because he was one of the original pioneers of the ambient scene. This release uses the orchestral work of Claude Debussy as a starting block and combines the sound texture in a most unusual way. There is a tendency to keep upping the volume, as it never really sounds loud enough. When the floor starts shaking in response to the bass notes, it is only then that you realise that your amplifier is dissipating a hell of a lot of watts. Not really music as in the normal sense, as a beat, melodies and rhythms are not present, but the overall texture of the sound is stunning. He was born inside the Arctic Circle and his music exhibits an icy feel, yet any warmth generated is indeed extremely subtle. From the slow fade in of the opening bars of the title track to the marvellous finale, you won't find a much better ambient album to include in your collection. If I were to choose a highlight, the obvious track would be Ancient Campfire, where the crackling of a fire is looped to perform the basis of an exceptionally haunting theme. Sheer brilliance. (brooky)
IGNATIUS. Unmastered Device. Out
Out Records hail from San Diego, California and feature music that defies classification. They reckon that putting music into pigeonholes severely limits the boundaries. Ignatius was born in Florida during the early seventies and listened to the standard progressive house stuff that was available during the last decade. A track by Squarepusher changed his musical perception and now his output ranges from drum 'n bass to intelligent trance, although most would be classed as pure electronica. Not as easy to access as some demand in these instant times, yet the fascination is stirred into action with such delights as Backeast, where noise is structured into melody and rhythm. Short catchy lo-fi tunes that tease the brain are included on Settle, which could almost annoy if they were not so infectious. Not all the instrumentals are happy, take the long Walking where the melancholy downbeat sounds are almost at the point of suicide whilst still retaining a strange intrigue. The thought-provoking finale entitled Wishfulthinking contains a repetitive beat and minimal changes but still somehow display a subtle attraction that is difficult to resist. I can confirm that Ignatius has at least one new enthusiast for his music. Are you willing also to be included on that list? (Philly)
CARYA AMARA. Extinction Frequency.
Second album from Carya Amara, and a substantial difference it is too! The previous release explored the darker and more experimental side of electronic soundscapes and ambience This one, whilst still pretty dark and sinister in places, is more structured. Using techniques on many tracks similar to Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk - sequenced and looped notes building up and around a variety of samples and sfx washes. In many respects the sequencing in general is more akin to Kraftwerk than TD, basically due to the fact that it sounds more industrial. The album kicks off with Metal Man, and straight away you know you're in different territory. I'm A Metal Man repeats as sfx and sequencers build amid screams and other related samples - very effective. A very recognisable vocal sample is heard on Acid Control. As you might expect, there's definite roots going back to acid and house on this piece. It's impossible to go through all 14 tracks track by track, the main reason is I just ain't got the space, the second is that I haven't got the descriptive powers! Stand outs are the above two, Shadow Over Eastbourne, Dataday (which reminds me of Laurie Anderson), hell, they're all cracking songs, although Binary is a little lightweight in such powerful company, Frou Frou sounds like a remix of Binary, about twice as long, and benefiting from a more experimental approach. In Malawi is more industrial dance, whereas Das Klang is straight from the Kraftwerk school of synth (and German samples!). If nothing else, this album shows that whilst Carya Amara can produce some cutting edge industrial ambience, they can also produce more structured and quite complex rhythmic pieces that wouldn't be too difficult on new ears. Hell of a good title for an album as well. Superb. Details from http://www.earthrid.com (Dw)
HAROLD BUDD. Agua. La Cooka Ratcha.
Harold Budd, often associated with Brian Eno, especially since they did a few albums together, is often overlooked. His work does bear a resemblance to Eno, but then doesn't Eno's bear a resemblance to Budd's? Whatever, Budd has produced some stunningly evocative and beautiful ambient work. His treated piano, usually played over a subtle wash of background soundscapes, is often incredibly relaxing and evocative. This release bears all these hallmarks, indeed, one or two of the tracks are familiar such as Plateaux, and The Pearl. Eight tracks in all and I don't think I'd be in danger of being done by the trade description if I said they were all superb. The best bit, though, is the fact that they're all recorded live. I just can't overstate how essential this album is if you're tastes lean towards ambient. (Dw)
ILLUMINATI. CD2. Planetsounds
The previous ep was good, but this is far superior. More accomplished, a better all-round sound and the consistency is superb. The ep starts with Midget Germs, this kicks off with a heartbeat, and gradually builds into a melange of imaginative and well suited soundscapes. We've all seen those clips of bacteria and germs multiplying under the microscope? Well, this is the aural equivalent. Argentium Atavism is straight into head territory with the sounds of a spinning pulsar and electronic screams from dying black matter. Eventually the piece transforms into a subliminal reworking of Edgar Froese' Aqua, only this is recorded using heavy water. Glass Box is a beautiful ambient piece with looped undercurrents whilst a distant and distorted voice calls from a phone that's not been connected for decades. The Strange Door is a really scary piece to begin with as a knocking sound is processed and reprocessed, wrapped and warped into strange angles and dimensions. About half way through it's as though the door has been opened onto lush, verdant landscapes, but as your confidence begins to build, you realise you've brought something through with you. Hellish landscapes weave in and out of alien colours as you rest on a beach of black sand - and something's still knocking at the other side of the door! No, it's not a novel, but it's the closest you'll get to one without actually reading! (dW)
VARIOUS. Intox Sampler. Promo
This interesting little cd is a sampler containing 12 tracks from a new French label that's kicking off called Intoxygene. If you can get hold of it, it's supposedly priced at around eight quid, and what's more appealing is the fact that there is some good stuff on it. The album kicks off with Electrobolt and Safe And Sound. It's a kind of hybrid of drum and bass, electronic beats interspersed with catchy metal riffs and samples. It's not in your face metal, rather more subtle - a superb one to start the proceedings! Alongside Electrobolt there's Y Front, The Young Gods, Peeping Tom, Virtuary and Franz Triechler. There's a feeling of industrial, experimental in a style not too dissimilar to Soundisciples, but not too out there on a lot of the numbers. There's elements of trip jazz on Peeping Tom's Arthur The Gatto. Virtuary's Fantomas is a superb blend of electronic ambience with just a dusting of jazz. Treichler's Quintet Op 1 is a seven minute odyssey of ambience meets David Lynch. If this sampler is anything to go by, then Intoxygene is one hell of a label to watch out for. All I can say is that I hope those wonderful folks at Work Hard PR will be keeping us supplied with Intoxygene albums? (Dw).
VARIOUS. Shock Electronik. No
Bones Records. BONESCD09
Modern Dance missed the first compilation, but now we make amends by heaping lots of praise towards a chilled out electronic performance of leftfield proportions. This label is a very reliable source for quality electronic music and the ninth instalment will not disappoint. The eleven contributions span the field from funky to ambient calling at many diverse styles along the way. Take for instance the glorious opening track by Fluid, where the attitude is indeed funky, the bass is as mean as it comes with the electronica being very inventive. Coral Beach is a marvellous opener and the music gets even better. The DJ Morpheus reemeekz of Cybajaz mixes downtempo with a hard bass and a house type beat, which is an unusual backdrop for the soaring flute passages. Syzygy have produced a superb chillout track that is a sheer delight to listen to and contains lots of dreamy moments to satisfy even the most arduous enthusiast. I am looking forward to the remix of their 1995 album Morphic Resonance. Much more upbeat is the Shock remix of 45mph by Gen-ik, which is quite fast for the urban area. Venturing into drum and bass territory is the T-Power remix of Pure Bitch Power by The Swarm. Skafunk is a brilliantly titled track as the instrumental music is a combination of the styles with a very modern outlook and it has been assembled by Luke Warmwater. New signings to the label are the duo known as Wave, where their brand of ethnic sounding chillout is beautifully demonstrated on the last track Moroccan Dust. This selection is certainly a favourite of mine and it should be one of yours as well. (Brooky)
SYSTEM 7 & DERRICK MAY. Mysterious
Traveller. A-Wave. AAWCD008
Pioneers in the techno market employing the lead guitar? Yes that's System 7 with a fascinating collection of old and new material. Their collaborations with the one of the inspirations behind the Detroit techno scene, Derrick May makes this an even more robust product. The instrumental music ranges from the almost ambient sounds of the Fire mix of the title track to the techno flavoured Mayday remix of Altitude. This is not just simply a compilation of recycled old material because there are tracks that have never been released on CD, new remixes and one completely new track. The Groovy Intent mix of the Mysterious Traveller was only completed in Feb 2002 and whilst essentially retaining a lot of the original, the piece tend more towards the deep house department without being repetitive. Icon, the Montage Mix is one of the tracks that was released on vinyl only and this great piece is a bonus for people who like to listen to their music on CD. The gorgeous new track E-Merge brings techno out into the open with an involved beat that provides the backbone for lots of unusual sequenced samples to form a melody of sorts. The finale, Overview allows Steve Hillage to use his classic floating guitar riffs to complement a very moody piece. There is no mistaking a very good album. (Brookoid)
Pihr consists of Paul Broome and Natasha Blanco-Dominguez. Their music is like a smooth mix of cool beats, laid back melodies and often brings to mind bands like Portishead, Dead Can Dance and Delerium. Paul Broome plays the guitar, synths and vocals, whereas Natasha is the main vocalist and plays the synth as well. The production of Reborn is incredibly good, and the mix gives plenty of room for Natasha's lyrics. Some tracks are stronger than others; Broken Promises is really good, although Dark Winter isn't as consistent although the quieter sections are very provocative. Empty Paper, Playfellows (which is a bonus track), Cry Baby and Bandwagon are pretty fine songs - all in all I found that the album grew on me as time went on, Initially I wasn't too sure, but I reckon Pihr have done a fine job and should be proud of Reborn. Like I say, given time it does open out and eventually reveals many interesting facets. Further details from 51 Gold Close, Nuneaton, Warwickshire CV11 4XZ, their website is www.pihr.co.uk. (Dw).
THE CIRCULAR RUINS. Realm Of Possibility. Databloem. DBCD002
Having sampled a track by Anthony Paul Kerby on the ambient compilation that introduced the world to Databloem Records, I was eager to hear more. Electronic music is the broad area covered by these nine pieces, although some do tend more towards the ambient sphere. Having listened only once to this debut, the standout track is the sixth, Truth And Waiting, where the haunting melody tantalises the music recepters with sweet evocative sounds, but no doubt that will change during subsequent plays. The opening piece The Beginning Of All Things sets the standard as this highly memorable slab consists of rich, robust sounds that are totally intoxicating. The following longer interlude again contains Tangerine Dream style riffs, but this guy is no copycat, he just utilises the basic concept and develops it into another wondrous track that simply fills the mind with happiness. The shortest track Echoes From Stone Part 2 has a very fast beat and a long note that slowly meanders to provide a distinctly strange mixture at the beginning. On the subsequent hearing of this CD, my thoughts regarding the sixth track have not been superseded, but that may alter after I have had more exposure to this release. The term quality electronica is often misused as the positive effects of the music are soon lost, but here is a true find that should satisfy the most demanding of audiophiles. (Philly)