[BASEMENTGRRR]: A Certain Kind of Decay CDr Raumklang Music
‘After the Devastation’ opens this latest release by the curiously titled [Basementgrrr], in futuristic Dark Ambient style. Vicious whispers and clatters scythe through the machine humming mix and provide an effective deception at the true nature of this acts staple genre.
‘Dead Planet’ hits with a blast of complex electronics and science fiction led synths that flare through a barrage of rhythmic sources and scattered patterns; that are reminiscent of the underrated Totakeke. This all consummately feeds well into ‘Polyarnyy’; opening up with emphatic pads that meld into soundtrack arpeggio led beats and chimes, that are broken down into an effective structure that oozes competently with atmosphere.
‘A Certain Kind of Decay’ is one of those albums, which whilst doesn’t set the world on fire, nails down all its key components well. Fusing the occasional smattering of commercialism into the mix along the way (as on the furious ‘My Darkest Part’) supplying a relevant break in the bleak soundscapes envisaged; and provides enough twists and turns to keep the listener on their toes.
As a solid piece of electronic music that tightly knits dyed in the wool scene friendly industrialism, this latest album ticks all the relevant boxes and should please the many over the few. There is however, something that just fails to raise an adequate level of excitement in me and I struggle right now to place my finger on what it is; regardless of the obvious talent [Basementgrrr] so obviously possesses.
ECSTASPHERE: Feed Your Head CDr Raumklang Music
An all too brief chilling female vocal led piano, is halted with a crashing distorted beat on the opening track ‘Our Souls’. However, once the crashing layers of Powernoise fuse together, this is a long forgotten interlude; as waves of orchestration take precedence upon a rolling mass of Industrial beats.
Rather than the squelching mess I anticipated, Ecstasphere carve up their rhythmic assault in a polished, clinical fashion. As a genre, there has been an over saturation of this style in recent years that’s I have slowly become disenchanted with; luckily, there is enough utilisation of other elements at play within ‘Feed Your Head’, to halter this album fading into obscurity.
The vocal talents of Aphexia are paramount in bringing to life key components of this release; that and further pad and piano work of course and Ecstasphere deserve a pat on the back for not solely following the path chosen by many of their colleagues within this scene. There is a real sense of striving to drive an atmosphere, over purely pummelling the listener into submission and this is more than appreciated
Not withstanding however, is the ability of this act to punish the ears where necessary; and on more than one occasion focus is fixed squarely on battering percussion and distorted beat. Harmony is never too far away though and when things get brutal, there is just enough experimentalism at play to keep visceral moments tethered down, allowing for emphatic synth work to take precedence once again.
Overall, ‘Feed Your Head’ is an enjoyable release that provided more than I anticipated; and that alone deserves a tip of the hat. With a little more focus on production values, their next output could fair even better.
HURON: The Other Side of Reality CD Raumklang Music
Wired electronics come to life, as scattered sparks and flutter between beats and pads, representing the landscape that is the opener, ‘Dark Fields’; and a heartbeat carries the birth of this new machine forward into the reverberated landscape of ‘Silent Hills’. Huron provide tracks that split down the middle into two halves, with a complex framework of glitch ridden sounds; that provide an abrasive bedrock for a sea of chamber dripping piano and pads, to drag themselves across, occasionally stumbling through the cracks.
As a prime example of how to precisely piece together shards of scattered IDM, Huron has clearly nailed this down to clinical perfection; every note has its place, every scrape has a purpose, every beat the appropriate level of thump.
However, with trying to achieve something so undeniably spot on, there is a downside to this album (albeit a very small misgiving). ‘The Other Side of Reality’ is so on the money, there is the tendency to lose the necessary humanity that plucks on the heart strings and sets the hairs on the back of your neck on end. With every note brutally scrubbed with an aural antiseptic, the only downside is that there is a tendency somewhat to become detached from the music and watch it flow from afar; as if viewed on a giant screen, rather than taking part.
As I said though, this is an almost insignificant grievance on what is overall an excellent example of programming wonder. Dripping with atmosphere, it’s clear that Steffen Schröder takes his work seriously; and regardless of my minor quibbles there is much on this latest album to marvel at. Influences are many and it won’t take much for any self-respecting IDM aficionado to work these out and applaud Huron for matching his peers’ technicality and class.
XAVIER CHARLES: 12 Clarinets in a Fridge CD Unsounds
I am not a lover of Music Concréte or indeed music solely based on field recordings. In this case you can skip the field part, as Charles has wandered no further than his kitchen and created sound sources within that environment; namely his fridge, as the title suggests.
In fairness, he has also used his clarinet, and although I sound a bit harsh, he has been creating ambient music for some time, so in theory this shouldn’t have been run of the mill twaddle; and at a small insignificant level, some of this works.
However, I cannot get over envisaging a picture of Xavier in a pinafore, ignoring the washing up and farting around pointlessly whilst his significant other wonders if he will ever get round to cooking dinner for once, rather than pretending to be a musician.
This is as pointless a concept as many other releases from this genre and would most likely sound better if the clarinets had been firmly shoved up his backside; if anything it would have been as relevant.
SARAH PEEBLES: Delicate Paths CD Unsounds
Toronto based composer Peebles usually works with sound based art improvisation and installations, utilising a Japanese mouth organ called a Shō. The sound isn’t dissimilar to that of any other mouth organs I have encountered, if not more shrill than those commonly used.
I had expected a certain fragility to the album, considering its title; and I couldn’t have been more wrong. Occasionally, other instrumentation comes into play although it barely interprets anything that could be classified as music, with notes spat out like demented out of key Jazz (although this is an insult to many an established musician of that genre). This is an introduction to the Shō for me and if I have anything to do with it, the last time I will ever encounter one.
There was a time when the Unsounds label produced the odd gem that I could latch onto, knowing that nobody I knew could possibly have it; and as obscure as the sounds were, they were usually interesting if nothing else. ‘Delicate Paths’ is an annoying irritant from start to finish that made me cover my ears and screw my face up. Self-indulgent tripe.
TOKEE: Struktura CD Raumklang Music / Unguided Tactical Sounds
The mastermind of Anatoly Grinberg, Tokee has been treading the boards for a number of years now, with a less conventional approach to electronic music as opposed to his peers.
Opening up with ‘Plasma Membrane’, neo-classical structures are played out as a mighty arpeggio interweaving between sporadic and frenetic beat-play. The overall effect is a hybrid mash up of medieval village music, dragged across time and space into the 21st century. In contrast, ‘Nucleus’ rises from the rain-drenched earth as a more subdued and atmospheric piano-led ambient number, that evolves into rich IDM Sci-Fi drenched obscurity.
‘Struktura’ as a whole, doesn’t play by any rules. More often than not we are treated to peculiar patches of sound that wouldn’t normally be utilised when constructing a track; such is their simplicity and peculiarity. However, Grinberg has a knack of pulling contrasting styles together with ease, allowing for rich warm sub-texts and gently cut and paste rhythm sections, to glue them all together cohesively as one.
What I particularly enjoy is Anatoly’s sense of harmony, no more prevalent than on his piano work; and a highlight for me is the prominence of the keys on ‘Ribosomes’, where it takes centre stage for dramatic pad-work to rise in the background amongst tight building blocks of beats.
Overall, ‘Struktura’ is an enjoyable romp that teasingly strays from the path into other avenues, whilst keeping a tight stranglehold on the genre in which it resides. Involving enough, whilst giving your senses a pause for reflection when it detracts from the norm, Tokee has produced a clever and interesting release; that provides enough twists and turns to stamp its own individuality on what sometimes feels like an overly congested genre.
BOUQUINISTE: s/t CD Dope Records / Unguided Tactical Sounds
Moscow’s Bouquiniste light the touch paper from the word go, with the bombastic ‘The Day They Came’; with a furiously soundtrack driven, up-tempo barrage of beats and layers of pads that delve into orchestral territory; whilst fluttering electronics do battle in the background.
In contrast, ‘Awakening’ is the aftermath of a great war; where survivors of the destruction clamber out of the ruins, to bare witness to the catastrophic results and there is a feeling of defiance that erupts from the proceedings in a crescendo of swirling digital fusion.
Produced by Alexander Okunev and Anatoly Grinberg, it’s immediately evident that one half of this duo is part of Russia’s IDM enthusiast, Tokee. Many of the pad work is reminiscent of the latters other work, but this all adds to the familiarity; and ultimately makes this album a more enjoyable experience.
Bouquiniste focus their approach on being the musical equivalent of cutting edge weapons around the globe, based on sound. Evidence comes aplenty in the form of breakbeats and scattered blisters of spangling electronics; that flitter through as wave upon wave of cataclysmic destruction as the album progresses to its dramatic finale.
Re-issued under the new Unguided Tactical Sounds label in limited format, there are a further three bonus demo versions of tracks that are simply ‘untitled’ (and a further three mixes on the digital download); further adding to the notion that there is a futility in war, even if it inspires some great music in the process.