EMPIRION. Narcotic Influence. XL Recordings XLS72CD

            A 32 minute single trip under the narcotic influence of techno. The five mixes including the edited version contain the spoken word vocals by Petal. Dave Clarke does his bit for this type of music in a slightly discordant way. Chris Needs of Secret Knowledge proves he is still a good interpreter with the styles included. Acid Trance is care of the ‘Meat Beat Manifesto Mix’ and ‘Narcotic Influence 1’ ends with the typical hi-energy dance feel. A good single and if you were in any doubt British techno can rule the world. (Phil Brook)

 

JOI BANGLADESH. E. P. Nation KR74CD

            A three track 20 min ep where Asian techno meets hip hop experimentalists created by duo Farock and Haroon Jai. The path is a familiar one where the joyous traditional Eastern sounds are mixed with Western dance rhythms on ‘High Times’. The next track ‘Nargin’ follows a similar theme apart from some excellent riffs. The Final piece ‘Esyl’ the Spring Heel Jack mix completes a good ep with the drum n bass feel. (Phil Brook)

 

RICU. Cone Of Confusion. KK Records KK148

            The press release states this album should be filed under experimental/industrial category. Ricu, a young Japanese technocrat release his second batch of mimimalistic ideas fired out at speed. I suppose the music is a cross between R. Hawtin and G-Man where hard beats, harsh tones and raucous rhythms are all dispatched without a care for yer average clubber who will only be able to writhe instead of dance to tracks like ‘Beat (Ion)’ and ‘Telecc’. The vast majority of daytime radio pundits will be not be able to sit within hearing distance of this cd, which is probably why it’s so good. This guy could make Aphex Twin appear to compose sugary pop songs. The title music is a 10 min excursion into a nightmare scenario yet Riou can also provide the trump musical card with ‘Agnes’ where a hypnotic varying mellow harmonic beating note is deliberately assisted by a pounding drum machine. Patience is a great virtue and a lot of this is required to accept an album that is radically different, not all the experiments work but most do in a strange fashion. I think the shock of it all would be a little too much for the amateur. One for the serious audiophile. (Phil Brook)

 

VARIOUS. Natural Born Techno 4. Nova Zembla NZO7OCD

            Samplers come in all guises from the most easy listening music designed for diy shopping to those used in the clubs where late night frenetic dancing is all the rave. This album title suggests there are three predecessors and if they are up to a similar standard, then they are well worth looking out for. The label is based in Antwerp and on this goodie, ten different artists get the chance to inspire although less then 50% are known to me. I particularly like ‘Euphoria’ by Worm and the track by Riou, both taken from their own albums. Techno has a reputation for fast electronic beats, but these can be dispelled by the inclusion of the Low Tech Heroes ‘Tree Top Raft’, a beguiling treasure of simplicity taken from a yet to be released album that I really look forward to sampling. The inclusion of’ Omicron’s ‘Expert’ is also very welcome, all due to the non standard patterns which are assembled to complete a musical jigsaw. The final piece by 02 Soul shows how melodic techno can be. A lot of the music is taken from Maxi singles ( do they mean ep’s? ) and this album is available at the price of a cd single. If you thought techno was no longer a valid area of musical expression, then you have probably not listened to this album. (Phil Brook)

 

MIKE INK. Paroles & Polka Trax. Warp wap82cd

            A new name to you? Well, maybe a few of his aliases might ring a few bells: Love Inc, Vinyl Countdown, MI5, Gas and Gungerman. A seven track compilation of the 12 singles Paroles and Polka Trax. The original version was released five years ago and it became an underground dance classic, the 96 mix uses more modern sounds to update where as those impressive remixers Autechre ad T Power get to grips with differing aspects. The latter is the most’fascinating. The three mixes of Polka Trax (2,1 and 4, what happened to 3?) is hard minimum techno aka plastikman style. Well worth obtaining if only for the T Power mix. (Phil Brook)

 

EMPERION Advanced Technology. XL RECORDINGS XLCD117

            The trio of Oz Morsley, Bobby Glennie and Jamie Smart firmly believe that you should have a loud beat and fluctuate between’120 and 140 bpm. it’s not techno all the way, however, the track called somewhat mysteriously Ayahausca has a rich, robust sounding bass coupled with the instrumental chorus line I will describe as happy acid house. Quark could be from Deep Space Nine apart from the fact it is a majestically lofty track and the Brothers of God won’t be too impressed with their techno version of Jesus Christ. Some of the tracks were featured on the recent ep Narcotic Influence and that gave a lasting impression and hopes of more of the same to come. The album finishes with ‘New Religion’ a 10 min slower number where advanced technology meets bold samples and heralds the new religion of Emperion. I can say their debut album certainly fulfills earlier promises and although mainly aimed at clubs, this cd provides another role model, good upbeat British techno within the confines of your music room. (Phil Brook)

 

JAM & SPOON. Kaleidoscope. Dance Pool. 4872622

            Jam El Mar and Mark Spoon last major assault on the CD world were the excellent Triptomatic Fairytales 2001 and 2002, so it was with great interest that an aural examination of Kaleidoscope was offered. Firstly, half of the 16 tracks have the dance vocalist Plavka singing apart from one by the Spanish singer Carlos Sanchez. Secondly the songs range from out and out dance tracks like Guiding light which is exceptionally commercial to the self explanatory So Called Techno Track. The opener starts with Gilmour type guitar playing by Peter Weihe and finishes with electronica, in the middle is Plavka singing to enter the Garden Of Eden. I like the instrumental Warm Dead Dog and the following track Flame where she sings against a string arrangement that provides a shimmering effect against an electronic backdrop. You Got To Get In contains ever so rich sounding synths and is only a two min uplifting section which quickly flows into the next track which again surprises with syrupy orchestration with a drum ‘n bass feel! Usual Suspect is another drum ‘n bass that does not describe the rest of the track as it only uses this style for small sections of the music. Weird but also very good. The next is so hard to believe, take Spanish flamenco guitar and spanish singer give them two minutes before the dancer beat kicks in. Jam & Spoon can even put a dance beat around a trumpet solo. The best is surely heavy metal dance care of I Pull My Gun Once. This is an album full of contrasts, the instrumentals allow the duo far greater freedom of expression, yet this album still manages to display all aspects of the dance arena. (Phil Brook)

 

APHEX TWIN. Come To Daddy. WARP. WAP94CD

            Just listen to the latest developments in techno experimentalist on this four track cd. Richard James is like the 90’s equivalent of Beefheart or Zappa (that should stir up the editor a little bit) in that he, more than a lot of others, is willing to explore the boundaries between what is currently called music and the new sounds awaiting to be classified. The first and title track, the Pappy Mix, stars a heavy metal distorted guitar on a fast jungle beat that is very harsh, add often repeated words I Want Your Soul/Come To Daddy in a similar style to the Prodigy and the results are very unlikely to get daytime exposure on Radio 1. Flim, in direct contrast, shows the other side of jungle where the beat is very light and the succulent sounds are more typical of the standard Aphex sound and in this case the strings perfectly balances the drums. On the Little Faulteroy Mix, lo fi spoken words in a child’s voice give this a quaint feel which I suppose is very unusual in it’s delivery and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He has a knack of making the impossible happen by allowing music to be released that other artists would not be prepared to create in case it might damage their credibility as shown on the final piece entitled Bucephalus Bouncing Ball. He still leads, the rest will follow later. (Phil Brook)

 

MALKA SPIGEL. Hide. Swim CDSWMIO

Songs and music firmly routed with a dance feel yet these are classics rather than club classics. The seven tracks are not standard songs in any respect as they vary from trip-hop to pseudo Jungle beats. The title song has a chorus line that lingers in the memory, it's one of those lines that can and will be repeated many times. The first four songs are all originals and very fine originals they are too. The last three tracks are the work of remixers. I Just Want by Incarnate has a drum 'n bass feel' with rather lush instrumentation that prevents the usual sparse sound from prevailing. The Immersion version of Returning W-heel is a purely instrumental piece where loops and record scratches are put together so the minimal changes affect the music sound more drastically than you would imagine. The final remix of Hide is by G-Man and Nigel Walker and bears little comparison to the opening track with the minimalists hard techno pounding at the doorsteps. The album provides a refreshing change from the mass marketed sounds around and I believe the name of Malka Spigel should be remembered. (Phil Brook)

 

VARIOUS. UK Space Techno Volume 3. Millennium Mil 037CD

In the past, I had the opportunity to write about the first album in this series and I gave it a complementary review. I can now say that the third album is as good as the first especially with the playing time being a respectable 120 minutes. The album title is quite appropriate, but it is important to realize that space techno covers the range from the dancefloor stompers to much quieter interludes. There are lots of good moments to enjoy and if I was to choose one track from either disc, an almost impossible task in itself, I would probably mention Typhoon's Overture and from the second disc, Equus's Lava Flow, although this track is also included on the recent Soma compilation. I could also refer to the succulent arrangements above the techno beat on Richie Maraudei's The Language Of Love. Subtitled the Best Of British Underground, this double album confirms there is a lot of excellent material available on dedicated labels. The packaging as always is impressive and I am pleased to say the overall marks awarded, place volume 3 at the upper end of the scale. (Phil Brook)

 

FREDDY FRESH Accidentally Classic Harthouse RH CD023

The name and the cartoon character depicted on the front cover doesn't give a true impression of the music enclosed. He is from Minnesota, and after spending some time in Puerto Rico formulating ideas, released, this debut album. There is a trend towards fusing all the latest styles of music, ie blending the best of electro hip hop with acid techno to make a more professional sound with smoother edges. This is something that Fresh does in an immaculate way. Yes there are standard beats that have been heard many times before, yet what is different is the way he layers the instruments or samples. Taking The name and the cartoon character depicted on the front cover doesn't give a true impression of the music enclosed. He is from Minnesota, and after spending some time in Puerto Rico formulating ideas, released, this debut album. There is a trend towards fusing all the latest styles of music, ie blending the best of electro hip hop with acid techno to make a more professional sound with smoother edges. This is something that Fresh does in an immaculate way. Yes there are standard beats that have been heard many times before, yet what is different is the way he layers the instruments or samples. Taking a track at random - let's choose Dilemma, the overall structure reminds me of the duo B 12, who's succulent electronic grooves modulate together in harmony. The single Chupacabbra is a fun piece which thankfully avoids being one of those awful novelty records with all it's cut up beats. Open Spaces is the best of the 15, the other 14 are all spliced up to provide variation and are well above standard. This is an album to warm too and it actually gets better the more I listen to it. In the sleeve notes, it says that hopefully at least a few of the songs will find their way onto your CD player. I believe that all the songs should be played. Accidentally Classic? - Predictably brilliant. (Phil Brook).

 

VARIOUS. Taste It Volume 2. Harthouse HHUKT2

A six track sampler featuring some of the artists on the Harthouse label. It starts with a piece from the forthcoming album by Jiri Ciever, who utilizes Jazzy cut up backbeats with distorted bass lines to make an infectious package. Bill & Ben provide an interesting mona mix. The third is a typical storming'club number with disco style connections, next is by Freddy Fresh and is taken from his debut album. One to look out for in the shops. Alter Ego Vs David Holmes contains hard techno beats and the final track by Yokato is quietly mellow with a fast Jungle beat and brass samples, and is a brilliant 30 mins of fun with Harthouse, which is very tasty. (Phil Brook).

 

JIMI TENOR. Intervision. Warp WARPCD48

This Finish man makes Chds Evans appear sane. He has the audacity to attempt to mix lots of old styles including Herbie Hancock type (by the use of a vocoder) vocals which were classed as old hat even before these records were released. Using John Barry soundscapes with beats rolled up in plastic facia, this pop fodder should be just that and not taken seriously, yet I find that I am drawn to these songs. The first track Outta Space could be considered ever so corny, but it isn't. The following piece Downtown is drenched in a sultry sax to accompany the laid back vocals, to give a very light jazz feel. Music for the dance floor? Not in the nineties. Where is the techno or trance? Can't Stay With You Baby sees him singing in a falsetto voice and Teala is only full of despair. After the eighth song Wiping Out, which explores the Jazz funk area, there is no doubt that this is weird, but beautifully weird and it contributes to a trend bucking album of great merit. Combining the worst of the game show jingles with funk and cheesy organ notes, Tenor has certainly found an unusual ally with this reviewer. On paper the format has little chance of success, on disc the format has every chance of breaking into the market. It may seen un-hip to support the notion of orchestral soundbites from the 60's with modem accompaniment and distorted singing, but this guy has some wonderful ideas that work exceptionally well. (Phil Brook)

 

VARIOUS. Techno Ballads Vol. II. Millennium Mill 043CD

After the success of Techno Ballads Vol. 1, the opportunity to compile a follow on from the first album must have been irresistible. 22 tracks grace this double CD and the balance between the well known to the unknown is carefully managed. New act Full Moon Fashions deliver two contributions, the first is the seven and a half minute Happy Shaded, where excellent music is only exceeded by their second piece 39 which lasts a couple of mins longer than the first. Spicelab's Clones is one of those tracks that can genuinely be regarded as being beautiful. It's a piece to go to sleep to after it's finished. One of the most pleasant of ballads is by Auto Union. The name World Of Chocolate conjures up mouth watering thoughts and their Time Is An Illusion lives up to the name. One of the most difficult aspects of compiling a CD such as this is the choice of tracks. Allowing diversity whilst maintaining a balance that does not exceed the boundaries of the genre has been achieved. The current craze with lo-fi sounds has been digitally attacked to provide the full frequency of techno ballads. This could be one of those hi-fi test records that could be enjoyed no matter what time of day. It's as excellent as Volume I. (Phil Brook)

 

LUKE SLATER. Freak Funk. Novamute. NoMu57CD

Ask for a list of techno gurus who have a prodigious output and the name of Luke Slater will probably not be mentioned. Standing in Aphex Twin’s shadow, this man should be at his side as far as public recognition goes. He has recorded under a number of different guises and on various labels, but this his first for Novamute and it is well above his own high standards. (I should know as I possess a number of his previous releases including the highlight, Four Cornered Room) Whilst listening on headphones , it becomes obvious that a lot of care has been taken in achieving the stereo effect and there are some deeply distorted passages but of course it all adds to the fun. All the tracks flow from one to another and he always manages just to keep on the right side of melodic. The music ranges from the hard edged Engine One to the much easier title track with it’s unusual percussive beat. It all commences with Purely, where a driving beat with unusual samples is mixed together to offer a pleasant almost easy listening attitude, but don’t think this man has gone soft, it just displays the wide nature of his compositional skills. The next track Score One starts with heavenly type voices over a sci-fi score before flowing into Origin where the complex repetitive riff engages the mind, the piece then mutates into another differing section that could almost be heavily modified water sounds of Score Two. If it was not for the handy CD visual display it would be an interesting task to actually define the start of each track. The luscious instrumentation of Are You There is balanced by the tenth track Bless Bless which surprises with it’s cut up beats. After all this time there are still some people out there who believe that techno is purely a collection of bleeps played at raves. If those individuals are willing to peer over the musical horizon they would find that the instrumental material composed by Luke Slater is much more thought provoking and consequently is highly commended. (Phil Brook)

 

VARIOUS. Feel The Vibe. Vibe. VIBE1CD

An enhanced CD where those rich people with a PC can enjoy this multimedia experience. This promo states it is a unique record from the innovators who are shaping the cutting edge of music, be it drum ‘n bass, garage, techno or trip hop. The main idea is to promote a center of excellence for music, art and fashion, of course is has to be based in London. The album features vibes that deal with jazz, live acoustic based sounds, dub, funky and drum ‘n bass. If anything the use of vocalists give the overall feel of this album more of an inclination towards the garage area. There are nine tracks of music from artists who’s work I am unfamiliar, with only one track being lifted from an album. In many respects this piece by Damage called Lady Love taken from the album Forever is very commercial and sounds to me that they are a teen male (although probably only just) band and not quite at the cutting edge of sound. It all starts pleasantly enough with The title track by Scene Central Featuring Mike King with an acoustic sounding piece that offers relaxation. By far the most interesting and the only track to really live up to the promise is the final track by Calcutta Cybercafe and their International Vibe which features an assortment of styles and is the only section on this album to prove how good drum ‘n bass can be. This is head and shoulders above the rest and includes some rather interesting percussion work not just relying on snare, kick and cymbals, but using tablas and other Eastern instruments. So an unusual album to review which features types of music that do not necessary go together well. At least the concept is good and if you are planning to visit the big city then the Vibes Bar can be found at The Brewery, 91- 95 Brick Lane, London. E1 (Phil Brook)

 

NOOSPHERE. Carpe Noctum and 23rd Chromozone. Blue Room Released BRO38

London based Blue Room Released debut in the MD magazine combines the thumping bass techno exploits of Noosphere. Neils Paschen, Eberhard Schulyz and Marcus Maichel get together again to release a surprisingly effective 12" vinyl. I expected this to be quite a hard track after reading the press release, but the results are pleasantly just on the melodic side. The flip side, 23rd Chromozone contains a menacing beat that slowly fills the speaker until the fear reaches the required crescendo. If anything this is the better side. Hamburg can still produce good quality music and this label recognises this. (Phil Brook)

 

MAJOR FORCE WEST. The Original . Mowax. MW082CDJ

How different do you want your album to be? Do you wish it to contain an amalgam of styles with lots of inventiveness? This fits the description - Japanese style. I found the catchy sampled guitar found on the third track of the first disc very unusual above the trip hop beat which competes with the super woofer sub bass of That’s The Jail (Boy Ken). The following Love Break (Takagi Kan) features a female type diva singer, whereas Sax Hoodlum (Major Force Productions/Grass Roots Dub), naturally has developed the sound of a sax to the ultimate where it fights the weird bass into submission. If that was not enough to whet the appetite, then lets examine some of the other offerings. Last Orgy (Tiny Panx) has big beats, scratching and vocal samples in comparison to the next piece by the orchids, Yes We Can Can that starts with a crony nursery rhyme tune on an incredibly funky beat. Change is necessary again on Meet The Rhythm, where laid back jazzy notes break above the scratchy inner groove of a record to make another interesting facet of this double album. One of the shorter tracks is called Hand Made and it’s lyrics have to be heard. The eleventh (Santastic Mix) which again uses scratching but with a jazzy piano lead that is certainly different. If tubular bells on a funky beat is for you then track 12 is to be listened to. Fed up with that, try techno on the following piece or the megamix of the seventeenth, which are both superb. The second disc continues to prevent boredom by making so many drastic changes to the individualistic fifteen tracks. Take for instance the wow ridden, strangely intriguing opener Midnight or the very infectious Get Happy or even the Latin American feel of Nice Guy. Lounge music is available on I Will Call You which includes a happy organ sound with 60’s style female singing . With lots of cut up beats, how many could you identify? We have not heard any jungle yet, so don’t despair that the Economic Animal In Concrete Jungle as a fine choice that will suit all junglists. Hiroshi’s dub is somewhat disco influenced with succulent melodies to compensate. By the time you musically reach the house style track (Thumpin’ DJ Mix) you will either marvel at it all or be totally confused. This is a double album of contrasts, where Japanese composer have thrown a box full of samples up in the air and collated a new direction in music. Stunned. (Phil Brook)

 

Funk D'Void. Technoir. Soma CD8

The independent dance arena is just not totally filled with soundalikes who all aim to produce the similar perfect track. Thankfully there are a few who are willing to experiment and allow all the different ends of the music spectrum to form not a technocolor collage but a technoir. All the dozen tracks are the work of Lars Sandberg except on Herbie On Rhodes, where Peggy O'Keefe keyboard skills are put to good use. The man not only writes the instrumental music, but arranges and produces it. The album is a bold one, where it lurches from hard dance tracks such as Bad Coffee to the angelic soothing Dope Lullaby, where lo-fi phased snare/hi-hat contrasts with a hi-fi deep bass kick drum and the mix can only be described as being brilliant. Even some of the harder pieces like Angelic Upstart beguile with the occasional missing beat. Soundtrack starts with lots of tinkly sounds and then develops into a rather beautiful track with the shimmering strings accompanying the beat. There is a tremendous variety on display between the twelve tracks and you should find something here to appeal. It's been a long time since I have had an opportunity to praise a dance album which contains so many differing styles within the accepted genre. (Phil Brook).

DAVID HOLLANDS. Quirk/Beguilled. Sm:)e. SM9066

This limited edition vinyl single attracts for two reasons, firstly it is a 10” and secondly it uses grey plastic. The instrumental modern techno is both inventive and fine to listen to. He is probably best known amongst the underground rave circuit where his skills as a dj are enjoyed by many a partygoer. This is his debut for Sm:)e and it is recommended. He cites his influences as jeff Mills and Carl Cox, so you should now recognise his musical style. Of the two track, I prefer Beguilled as it lives up to the title. Partygoers would do well to remember his name. (Phil Brook)

 

VARIOUS. UK space Techno Vol. IV. Millennium. Mill054CD

A few years ago, when they release vol. I in this series, my initial thoughts were that the concept was an interesting one and the development of this category of music has proved more successful than I first imagined. That album was compiled by Bud Niijar and now into his fourth season of Space Techno, I can reveal that all is very healthy on the home front especially if you know that the total number of British techno labels now exceeds 300! The instrumental music here is obviously by definition of a much harder attitude and it contains the amazing Engine One by Luke Slater, which is taken from his album Freak Funk. The opening track Infectious by X-Cabs certainly lives up to the title and newcomer Zart provides an Reality Check that was previously reviewed in Modern Dance. It’s a double CD all digitally produced with a total running time of 150 mins. Picking favorites is always difficult, but I can recommend the two tracks by Insync Vs Mysteron, Interceptor by Christopher Lawrence, Retrofit’s Beyond Belief and JB3’s Time which is the Dave Angel Mix. If you prefer something not quite as hard hitting then the dreamy Ascension by Aria maybe designed for your ears, but be prepared for the beat! Long Haul 747 by Darren Price is very melodic and contains a multi-layered approach and is one of those remarkable pieces that is overflowing with classic hook lines. After 2.5 hours and 22 tracks of good techno, you may feel a rest is in order, so why not treat yourself to vol. I, II and III! (Phil Brook)

 

BLAME Featuring DRS. Progression Sessions. Good Looking Records. GLRPS002

This, the second in the Progression Session series is mixed by Blame and investigates the latest developments in the drum ’n bass scene. The variety delivered with power here goes from the minimal to the mellow and exhibits his crafted style of seamless and very smooth mixing. incorporated on most of the tracks is the vocal rapping style of MC DRS, who’s deep mellow rotund lyrics stand high above the intricate rhythms and beats. I am not normally encourage by such vocal acrobatics, yet it does not detract from the choice of instrumentals. The nine tracks on offer will I suspect consist of unknowns to you, yet techno and jazz are even featured. My preferred extract is Beneath The Surface by PHD who uses melodic interfaces to bliss out on a drum ‘n bass trip. The opener by Artemis also conveys a mellow feel. It all concludes with Blame’s own Between World, which samples jazz/techno and neatly rounds off a spectacular journey into the diversity now available in the drum ‘n bass arena. (Phil Brook)

 

VARIOUS. Techno Ballads Vol. 3. Millennium.

Not everyone wants to have their mind blown out every time they play an album, sometimes the mood influences the desire to find something more relaxing. I am not becoming silly or suggesting that you should be listening to music designed for elevators. The previous editions of this series are exceptionally good, I do know this because I reviewed them and my hope is the latest edition will be up at least up to the usual high standard. No very well known acts appear here, but the quality of music makes up for their lack of media attention. I realize that the excellent Triangle by Sounds From The Ground is included here as well as on the Naturally Stoned vol.I, but it is such a good track and deserves greater exposure. The other nineteen tracks are all designed to display the less abrasive nature of techno and the term ballad is deemed appropriate. This is music that comes alive after the sun has gone to sleep. On disc one, highlights include Astral by Time Modem, Disappearing by Surge and Spirit Of Love by Marzipan & Mustard. The second disc starts with Sky Never Die by Fresh Moods which is one of the most gorgeous tracks that I have clapped my ears on. I know why I like Na Na’s waltz by Aqua Bassino, it’s simply due to low frequencies present in the bass riffs. I could also mention Always 8AM by Full Moon Fashions who again make the bass prominent and use a piano with lots of reverb. With well over two hours of musical relaxation just awaiting your attention as you prepare for bedtime, these happy instrumentals should ensure a good nights rest. Don’t you deserve that. (Phil Brook).

 

TWO LONE SWORDSMEN. ‘Stay Down’. Warp. WARPCD58

After Andrew Weatherall reign with the excellent Sabres Of Paradise came to an end, this musical talent could not be held down. He has teamed up with Keith Tenniswood and together they have produced a marvellous album. The opening track Hope We Never Surface, is a blatant example of the duos excellent music making skills. On the next ten instrumentals the world of electro, funk, hip hop and even techno are visited. Ivy And Lead is an unusual section in that electronica meets the classical Peter And The Wolf and its brilliant. The final track As The Worldly Pleasures Wave Goodbye surely must be the best thing they have done to date and perhaps even the best piece of music ever released on the Warp label. So you can tell that I thoroughly enjoyed this album and you should too. (Phil Brook)

 

TWO LONE SWORDSMEN. A Bag Of Blue Sparks. Warp. WAP106CD

A few years ago when The Sabres Of Paradise was still in existence, Andrew Wetherall could do no wrong and his work was respected everywhere. Fast forward to today, his new partner musically speaking since those days is Keith Tenniswood and this has resulted in an even more eclectic mix of post acid house melodies with the underlying dark side ever present. This is a six track EP and is a great foretaste of the forthcoming album. The often repeated word Sticky on the opening track is a subtle clue(!) to the title and is not as foreboding as you would imagine due to it’s attractive rhythms and pulsating beats. The following piece has the awful title of Gay Spunk yet the instrumental music is not at all off-putting. Almost sickly melodies lie in the same musical bed as electro - well almost on Electronic For Bird. This release certainly does not allow music to stagnate and the new album should be a must for further investigation. (Phil Brook)

 

VARIOUS. UK Space Techno Vol. V. Millennium. MILL071CD

Forget about all that imported techno and let us just concentrate on the British scene. As you might have already noticed, this is the fifth installment in the series and it probably benefits from being only a single album. Having said that, there are some very fine moments of instrumentals available and the X-Cabs 'The Vault' is a perfect example, although this is not the best track. The History Of The Future by Liquid State has to be the best, simply because of the inventiveness. Ok so the track by the Sound Associates could have been taken from the early days and offers no progression, but the rest provide a variety of styles within the genre. Mention must be made of at least two other highlights, one being the quieter Micronesia by the talented Moby and the Quietman man remix of the Gershwin classic Summertime by Surge featuring Sally Strawberry. I can now confirm that techno is alive and certainly kicking in the UK. (Phil Brook)

 

SHAMEN. Phorward. Castle. ESCMCD752

Now ten years old and digitally remastered, this mini-album was the last chance to capture the Shamen as an indie rock outfit before their pop/techno crossover songs that made them famous took over. Having said that the changes were in an advanced stage as a lot of the songs are reworked rather than remixed, but their unmistakable sound was emerging. It starts with a revamped version of You Me And Everything and continues with Splash 2, which is a much more developed electronic event than the earlier songs with plenty of lo-fi samples from radio/TV broadcasts. This is basically a non-commercialised piece similar to their well-known style. The remix of Reraptyouare is straight out of the acid club culture and many miles from the original. There is bonus track called Darkness in Zion, but only has a running time of two min. This album has to be seen as the transition between the indie rock straight sounds and the acid house that lead to their first rave anthem Move Any Mountain. Phoward is a fascinating look back to observe the developments of a band that brought the mainstream listeners into the ravers' clubhouse. (Phil Brook)

 

STEVEN CRAGG. EnTrance. New World Music. NWCD465

The sleeve notes sum up this album quite nicely by mentioning that it is infused with multi-ethnic ambiences, salsa/samba. Hip-hop, house, techno, jungle and contemporary dance patterns. All these styles are not found on each track and neither does each piece only conform to one particular type. It is quite a blend and varied selection. The opening track EnterTrances is very commercialised and does not really represent the rest of the album, although attempting to identify a track that does is almost impossible. The following track entitled Carnival is well named and could have been lifted straight out of Africa. It is change time with the third as house music complete with ethnic overtones prevents too much repetition. After the Hare Hare that was parted recorded at Glastonbury, the finest track Eyes On Horizons sonically lifts the spirit with a splendid solid beat coupled with melodic orchestration and unusual samples. The finale consists of an ambient beginning that develops into an accompaniment with the only proper vocal track. At just short of 52 min running time, the Shamans within society should have the perfect soundtrack to modern life. (Phil Brook)

 

PLAID. Rest Proof Clockwork. Warp. WARPCD63

I have always been a follower of the Black Dog, and when the departure of one from the trio was announced, disappointment set in. I need not have concerned myself too much as the duo continues to make instrumental electronic music that is neither bland nor uninspiring. The 15 tracks feature a wide variety of influences from the early bleep bleep techno to much more melodic phrases, yes Plaid are willing to tackle them all and more besides. The first track Shackbu sounds like early Gentle Giant until it slowly builds into a score that encompasses all kinds of music including jazzy scratching. The next track Ralome is adorable with its mellow duelling guitar solos. They are very good at producing subdued haunting melodies with complex rhythm patterns and the fifth track (Buddy) is a typical example. Sound manipulation and experimentation is ideally displayed on the next piece Dead Sea, which develops into an orchestral score. The events are concluded with a Gamalon style multi-layered instrumental Air Locked. This is one of those albums that can be enjoyed at all times of the day and when the listener is in different moods. No duff tracks here, just one continuous joy and with each listening, notes are observed that I somehow overlooked on the previous visit - A sure sign of an exceptional album. (Phil Brook)

 

APHEX TWIN I Care Because You Do. Warp Records WARP30

    According to the Guinness Book Of Rap, Dance & Techno, Richard James (Aphex Twin) has at any one time, got over 160 hours of recorded material awaiting release. The man is either an insomniac and workaholic or a genius. The double white labelled vinyl is a pre-release and I wonder if the final cut will be the same? This is generally a more percussive set than previous outings. The opening track (Acid Avid Jamshred) is already a classic in my mind although I have only heard it twice. This is followed by The Waxen Pith, which unfolds into a very haunting melody and just as you are beginning to become complacent, strange loud samples fill the speakers to jolt you back.

    Wax The Nip has an exceptional hard-core techno beat with melodic overtones designed to soften the overall texture. I would describe Icct Hedral as the darkened room approach to composition which improves with every play. Ventolin (Video Edit) is an unbelievable raw and harsh 'tune' with an almost excruciating high pitched whistle. The back molars will grind together in disharmony - one the avant garde purist will play at low volumes with the treble control set at minimum. Come On You Slags is a typical techno project interspaced with muffled voices and consistency is relative easy listening. A faster remix version of the opening track has the title Start As You Mean To Go. Wet Tip Hen Ox is great trance music which builds into a complex soundstage. Reminiscent of a plodding steam train on non-welded rails in competition with semi-muted wailing siren may sound horrific, but in reality is a pleasant quieter interlude under the name Mookid.

    On Alberto Balsam, James displays a natural talent of blending fascinating percussion with rich harmonics, but he always leaves something for the background. Cow Cud Is A Twin starts with a standard rap beat recorded via a cheap tinny microphone followed by the real thing. The subtle musical phrases tease. The final cut, Next Heap With is a slow neoclassical piece with yet another differing style. Did he sample the organ at Blackpool, I wonder! It would be easy to dismiss after just one airing except the first track, and that would be a great pity as this is a magnificent album. Aphex is the genius. (Phil Brook)

 

VARIOUS. Techno Ballads Vol. 3. Millennium.

     Not everyone wants to have their mind blown out every time they play an album, sometimes the mood influences the desire to find something more relaxing. I am not becoming silly or suggesting that you should be listening to music designed for elevators. The previous editions of this series are exceptionally good, I do know this because I reviewed them and my hope is the latest edition will be up at least up to the usual high standard. No very well known acts appear here, but the quality of music makes up for their lack of media attention. I realize that the excellent Triangle by Sounds From The Ground is included here as well as on the Naturally Stoned vol.I, but it is such a good track and deserves greater exposure. The other nineteen tracks are all designed to display the less abrasive nature of techno and the term ballad is deemed appropriate. This is music that comes alive after the sun has gone to sleep. On disc one, highlights include Astral by Time Modem, Disappearing by Surge and Spirit Of Love by Marzipan & Mustard. The second disc starts with Sky Never Die by Fresh Moods which is one of the most gorgeous tracks that I have clapped my ears on. I know why I like Na Na’s waltz by Aqua Bassino, it’s simply due to low frequencies present in the bass riffs. I could also mention Always 8AM by Full Moon Fashions who again make the bass prominent and use a piano with lots of reverb. With well over two hours of musical relaxation just awaiting your attention as you prepare for bedtime, these happy instrumentals should ensure a good nights rest. Don’t you deserve that. (Phil brook)

 

JOI. One And One Is One. Realworld. CDRW74

    The opening track could make the listener think that this is an another album by Transglobal Underground. This similarity is meant to be a complement, as Fingers is a vibrant piece with Asian style vocals. For a more commercialised approach the fourth tack Massive has a bold catchy feel which is continued into the next Oh My People. This album is not just full of Asian dance music and a change of tempo introduces a drum and bass set, it's cause is greatly helped by Spring Heel Jack assisting in the mix. Joi appear to have taken time on their debut album to appeal to the many differing styles within the accepted genre and with this in mind, the Asian club goers will certainly appreciate the dance friendly aspect of Heartbeat. In this pumping piece, Asian techno with minimal changes causes the pulse to rise with these intricate rhythms. It could almost be a typical Underworld track (another compliment). The finale, Joi Bani, was produced with a bouncy feel and is bound to be the Joi anthem.  The back cover says this is from the original Asian breakbeat fusionists, and they have released an album to be justifiably proud of. (Phil Brook)

 

VARIOUS. Techno Ballads Vol. IV. Millennium. MILL074CD

            The term techno ballad may be difficult to conceive, but it really just reflects instrumentals that are much softer in melody and tone. In fact this concept is remarkably good, especially when winding down during the late evening when darkness is in full flow. The previous volume was a double, but on this release, only a single album is needed to fit in the eleven tracks. It is not at the cutting edge and some may say it's a bit bland, but if this facilitates more accessibility to this type of music. Surely it's a good thing to increase awareness amongst the very people who would not normally listen. None of the artists are particularly well known, but the music is still of a high quality. The opener by Nova Nova sets the scene with buoyant uplifting melodies and the finale by Marzipan & Mustard (Love Chip) is the most pleasant way to relax listening to the end of the album. In the middle is even a version of Gershwin's Summertime, naturally it's an ambient mix by Surge. So to recap this is a very fine album. (Phil Brook)

 

CHRISTIAN VOGEL. Busca Invisibles. Tresor. TRESOR110

    I could give this guy an accolade by mentioning that he is perhaps the British musical equivalent of the best exponent of techno minimalism, Richie Hawtin alias Plastikman. The ten individual pieces all have their own particular mood that is very varied. If you are looking for happy sing-a-long melodies then don't even think about Vogel's music, as you would be certainly disappointed. Most of the tracks have a down beaten feel although some possess intricate techno themes that are layered into a dense sound, for example the penultimate Defence Cloud. The experimental side of his music has not been forgotten, as much of the beats from funk through to strange noises have been incorporated onto the album. As you could imagine, this is instrumental music aimed at the more dedicated end of the spectrum and part time listeners would probably have difficulty in accepting some of these tracks as music. It is a pleasure to be able to give an album a clean bill of health. (Phil Brook)

 

PLASTIKMAN. Artifakts. Novamute. NOMU61CD

            According to the very illuminating sleeve notes, this is the rather late third episode in this series which started with Sheet One. The forth album Consumed which came with a prized highly rated accolade from Modern Dance was released during the Summer of 98 and so Artifakts should be seen as a bridge between Musik and the previously mentioned Consumed. Info time over, what about the musical goods - Well in it's basic format its minimalist techno, complete with fascinating use of rhythms and gentle effects that waft over the exposed scene without much exertion. There's no point in going through the eight tracks as all are equally impressive, but the longer compositions such as As Friends Electrick? provide the artists with plenty of opportunity to develop these instrumental non beats into musical works of art. There are many who try to emulate his music, but few get anywhere close to producing albums of this standard. In this instant, the wait has been well worthwhile. (Phil Brook).

 

LEFTFIELD. Rhythm And Stealth. Higher Ground. HANDCD4

       How does a band try to better their debut with the release of a follow up album? It is an almighty task to accomplish yet this trio have spent three years experimenting with sounds and patterns to fill the gap. By using differing styles from the dance market and encompassing unique samples, the band has delivered a worthy successor. Songs that are instantly likeable tend not to do well in the longevity stakes and some of the ten tracks may take a little time to become accustomed too. So the album starts with Dusted, a vocal hip-hop song that soon infects the senses, then the big beat sound of Phat Planet changes the tempo. Another good alteration to the music is the modified reggae of the Chant Of A Poor Man. Even down beat is not neglected with the rather impressive El Cid, which is made even more effective by following the harsh techno of Double Flash . The album continues to weave a path between instrumentals and vocals with forever changing types. Leftfield continue to defy categorisation, except of course to define it as Leftfield! Listeners and reviewers alike will praise this album. (Phil Brook)

 

VARIOUS. Remixes. Warp. WARPCD69

            This 26-track double CD of remixed output from the Warp back catalogue is probably the highlight of the year for modern musical thinkers. The remixers include a fascinating selection of artists including some that are not signed to the label. It opens with Pram making an  absolutely superb version of a LFO and Aphex Twin track rolled into one. The duo known as ISAN use dodgy old keyboards to mellow the harshness of an Autechre track and the following piece is beautifully reconstructed into experimental melodica by Plaid. Surgeon does an excellent job of an LFO track by using haunting themes. Bodgan masterly crafts a solid instrumental of Autechre's EP7/Evane and the first disc ends with a remarkable retake of an old Link track. If you thought things could get no better then sorry to disappoint but it does. The Push Button Objects, those hip-hop techno people displays what can be achieved to the music of the Boards Of Canada and then Red Snapper do amazing things to Wilmot by Sabres Of Paradise. Add tracks with cut up beats, minimal and slow moving tracks, others with high pitched sounds and even Jim Tenor's happy go lucky expression of Sweet Exorcist and you have a brilliant insight into why Warp records should be held in esteem. The only track not original is rather good version of Tied Up by Spiritualised. (Phil Brook)

 

LUKE SLATER. Wireless. Novamute. ANOMU70CD.

            He has been involved with the experimental area of dance music for a long time, and his previous album Free Funk was released two years ago. That was and still is a very good album, which combined lush orchestrations with techno. He has never been able to stand still, so if you expecting more of the same or just developments then be warned that Wireless is a totally different animal. A back to basics approach was needed to achieve an album full of electro, not the eighties variety but a sound that is fit for the millennium where the drum machines have been replaced with live percussion. To give a more industrial electronic rock feel, a live guitar is added. This album conveys raw power and the lack of subtleties of previous releases only enhance the final effect. On Bolt Up, the vocal component is harsh mainly due to the distortion employed, whereas in comparison Weave Your Web is positively ambient and perhaps more typical of his style. This album will surprise many, as Slater has not merely shifted direction but re-evaluated electro in a dynamic way. (Phil Brook)

 

VARIOUS. The Warp Experience Soundtrack. LSD. BFLCD38

    Firstly, let me say a few words about this particular experience. It is not a rave place, but a busy London car park transformed, once a fortnight into a 24hour-club/visual arts/performance and dance arena where the latest techno sounds could be heard alongside a 9-year-old poetess! We will stick to the music on this double album which gives a broad flavour of the latest instrumental sounds from said car park. If the first disc of this double CD set represents the storming tunes, then the second offers a more relaxed approach. To give the necessary kick start, the Muses Rapt blast into focus with Spiritual Healing (already a classic) and this is followed by the amazing Venus by Dreamtec, where the rough edges have been polished to perfection to ensure this trance is ever so smooth. Add new tracks such as Atar.I.P by Shakta and the unusual pairing of Youth and Zodiac Mindwarp with Still On Earth and the diversity offered here will impress. On the second CD, there are a number of highlights including the tracks only available on this album. Celtic Cross on the acoustic sounding Jade Garden, The Electric Kids remix of Aqua Sufi by Industrial Suicide Tribe and the stunning chilled out In The Wake Of Beauty by Maya. I like this album a lot, mainly because there is at least one track here to suit any mood at any time of the day. This is great music from a great experience. (Phil Brook)

 

BEIGE. I Don't Either. Leaf. BAY5CD.

            Listening to the opening track Null To Zero, you start wondering if the exceptionally lo-fi sound and loud surface noises are taken from the most damaged of vinyl's. It doesn't take too long before a dramatic transformation confirms that this melodic(ish) electronica has all the hallmarks of quality experimentation. Oliver Braun is based in Cologne and has stripped away all the usual layers that provides a dense soundfield and rebuilds the 15 tracks in a much leaner type of production. I have already mentioned the melodic Melodramatic System Error that is the second piece and after the sparse Electro of Hydro Porto the theme continues with minimalist techno of a slowed down nature of Yakumc Dippel. The piece entitled Beige:103 is essentially bare funk put through electronics, and I can't quite decide if it's funny or just plain catchy. The combination of lo-fi spiky organ notes and melodic melodies really complement each other on the brilliant Beige 04/35/08. Very cut up reggae beats are included with the strange noises of Jamaika Fraktal to show that Braun is not afraid of tackling any style of music and changing the accepted norm into an amusing item. He has more ideas contained within this album than most artists would have in a lifetime. This is certainly one of those albums that always seems in danger of crossing the border into completely alien music that few would investigate, yet although this quirky sound is demanding on the ears, the stimulation factor is very high. Perseverance with this album will bring lots of rewards. (Phil Brook)

 

ST ETIENNE. Sound Of Water. Mantra. MNTCD1018

    This band seems to have been making music for ages, yet this is only their fifth album. The trio is in a much more adventurous mood, combining breezy pop with modern electronica. They allow acoustic instruments to sound completely in sympathy with sounds created by the latest Electro gizmo whilst retaining a very upbeat feel. The vocalist Sarah Cracknell should be known to most and her light voice has a very pure quality that transcends these songs. The happy sounding Heart Failed In The Back Of A Taxi displays the marriage between pop and electronica with great acclaim (from myself). On Sycamore, the slow-ish song is wonderfully enhanced by the careful used of harpsichord that gives this multidimensional piece an overall vibrant effect, which reveals much more on greater exposure. Another slow number is Just A Little Overcome, where the dreamy pop is surrounded by electronic effects in a most pleasing way. How We Used To Live typifies the St Etienne pop song, yet on closer inspection reveals a much deeper picture as the song develops. We then switch styles; a jazz laden beat! Not all of the ten tracks have lyrics, as Aspects Of Lambert is a typically fine instrumental. Perhaps the reason this album is so good is due to the collaboration with the German outfit To Rococco Rot (whom I have a high regard of) and they impart a post Krautrock and techno flavour. Never straying from the warm gentle melodies, this spaced out easy listening always provides songs that stay well away from blandness. Surprisingly the single Tell Me Why is not included, but don't let that small omission put you off listening to a great album. (Phil Brook)

 

 

UTAH SAINTS. Two. Echo. ECHCD33

            This local duo (from Leeds) hit the charts a few years ago with their What Can We Do For You anthem and Something Good that heavily sampled Kate Bush's Cloudbursting. It then seemed to become a very quiet period as legal wrangles with their previous record label ended with their second album even though it has been completed to being shelved. So you now know the reason why this album is called Two. Breakbeat samples abound but it is very carefully constructed with strong melodies replacing shock tactics. The guest vocalists appearing on the album include Iggy Pop, Chuck D, Michael Stipe, Edwin Starr and Chrissie Hynde. When I played Two for the first time, I wasn't convinced of its merits, yet there was a strange compulsion to hit the replay button and I'm glad that I did. The material is not ordinary, it's boldly arranged and the tracks develop and the style changes between them are surprisingly varied. A good guide to these is the fourth piece Lost Vagueness which starts with an orchestral feel, has a very raucous middle eight and ends with distorted space effect vocals. Of the many highlights Morning Sun is my current favourite mainly due to the melodic overtones balancing those amazing beats. The sleeve notes state that no tape was used during the making of this album and in excess of 5000 samples was used. Lurching from rock music daubed with breakbeat techno, these Saints have no musical sins 'Two' display. (Phil Brook)

 

 

COLIN DALE. Excursion 3. Obsessive.

A double album of deep house and tech-house grooves is the description given and it lives up to the title exactly. The 23 tracks don't feature any of the really big names, but it's the music that is important. If I were to choose the just one piece from the first disc then Chic-O-La by the house pioneers Silicon Soul would be a natural highlight. This can then be balanced by Fini Dolo's Blow the Restless Soul Poetic Peak Time Mix on the second disc, where the grooves are just right for this album. I said that artists were not especially big time players but that would be slightly inaccurate as some of the remixers are well known. Carl Craig gets the beats going on Can't Take It by Recloose and Ian Pooley utilises his unique skills to bring Beanfield out of the Planetary Dreadlock. If you are a fan of this style of music then this album is definitely for you. (Phil)

 

STACEY PULLEN. Today Is The Tomorrow You Were Promised Yesterday. Science. CDQED5

The title may be a right mouthful but this album is very tasty. The 27-second intro includes the realistic sound of dialling that make you think you are logging onto the net. Admittedly most of the 17 instrumental tracks are dancefloor friendly, yet they hit the right format to suit differing audiences. If you are looking for catchy tunes and hypnotic riffs then Stacey Pullen ought to be given a much higher profile in your collection. Pulling the best out of Detroit techno and mixing it with fine melodic passages is what get when he is in control. Tsunami is one of those tracks that has everything going for it and hitting the repeat button is only tempered with the thought of missing out of the next 15 tracks. One of the problems with dancefloor music is that it tends to reflect similar patterns, but here we get classics such as Vertigo in which angelic soaring female vocals harmonise with the heavens and the music is even better. There are five tracks that have only a limited life as all only lasts for less than a minute. The very prominent drums on Futuristic freakqueen only give sufficient space for few electronic riffs to enhance the mood. The following track is superb with its deep bass and haunting rhythms and I have been converted to the Freeworld. A very funky sound is encapsulated on Tiznit with slow moving melodic notes to provide a beautiful balance. Only two words can describe this album and those are Just Brilliant. (Philly)

 

MOONFACE. Between Worlds. Bedrock.

Phil Thompson has a residency at John Digwood's monthly Bedrock nights and his style varies from tech-house stompers to lush down tempo via minimal electro ambiences. Heard enough yet? The six tracks on my promo CD vary from the short 8 and a half min. opener U Get So Give to the longer Children Of the Sun in which techno is forced onto tribal beats which is all encapsulated within spaced out sounds. The music is European with a very modern outlook and Moonface kicks off with the most dancefloor-orientated tune you could imagine. In comparison to the following section in which the deep downtempo side of his nature is shown on Spirits, minimal electro is displayed to great effect on Roton. The album concludes with Naan Madal where the pulsating beats compete with the lush sounding effects to give the record buying public a chance to hear what they are missing at the monthly Bedrock night. (Peebee)

 

 

DANNY HOWELLS. Nocturnal Frequencies 3. Obsessive.

Described as deep-sexy-tech-funk-house, the third in this series shows his own way of mixing either eleven (on disc one) or twelve (disc two) pieces to form a concise musical path for the ultimate late night party. The dancing beat is present for most of the time, although that does not preclude quieter sections. Inclusions of tracks by Funk D'Void, Silicone Soul and Slam add weight to the tech house themes and Nitzer Ebb spices up the choice. My review copy only included the second CD, so the comment will refer to that. It starts with an exclusive mix by Howells of Kinkyfunk's Kinkyfunk, in which the progressive dance tempo is slated to those hours past twilight. Over half the tracks on this album have not been released yet as most come from either acetate or CDR. The tracks all merge together to form a seamless composition in which the beat is seldom dropped apart from the predetermined quieter interludes. The three dub mixes are very lightweight and serious appreciates would not even consider these to merit the term, but they do fit into the pattern. Being voted the 10th most popular DJ means that his style has a huge following and this compilation can only enhance his reputation. (Brooky)