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.
KALIPO: Yaruto LP/CD Antime
Berlin based Kalipo is a fundamentally obscure project that pulls on some off kilter sound sources. Opener ‘Embryo’ jolts to life the moment you hit play, with little to no build, as jangling bells and treated vocals make up the majority of the key hook, over the top of a simplistic monotone beat.
Jakob Häglsperger approaches his music partially from the Japanese IDM end of the spectrum (whether intentionally or not); and after a disappointing opener, ‘Lux’ chops, cuts and pastes child-like vocals expertly over a bed of dry beats and slicing beeps, fusing a tangled web of intrigue ridden electronica that is glorious to behold and wonderfully evocative.
Track three ‘Come’ infuses another element to Kalipo that is ultimately surprising. Gently tethered voices are dragged at the corners, as an emphatic synth explosion injects an aura of drama; reminiscent in some respects of the pad work of Deep Forest, but pandering more to the experimental electronics market.
If I didn’t think things could get any better, the title track is gloriously spacious and delicious foray into pop sensibilities that once again splice vocal work with cutting edge expertise. Utilising the aural equivalent of club aesthetics, voice and synth become one as sound breathes through the beats; and the effect literally set the hairs on the back of my neck standing upright.
I am lucky enough to have a lot of albums drop through my door to review and more often than not, many of them are clouded in insignificance to me on first impressions of the unassuming artwork and press sheet. ‘Yaruto’ was one of those albums that I picked up and didn’t expect much from; thus making the whole experience that more rewarding.
RAPOON: Cultural Forgeries CD Alrealon Musique
I have heard many an album by Robin Storey’s Rapoon project and most of them differ greatly; and given the mass expanse of album releases in his discography, this is of no surprise.
Most of his work previous that I have encountered is electronic in nature, so therefore it is interesting to note that ‘Cultural Forgeries’ is essentially an album of unplugged work, comprising of recordings made by various orchestral instrumentation and so forth.
Musically speaking, when approaching such work there is the danger that a project can evolve into something less than its parts. Appreciating an album like this can prove difficult if your expectations are dashed; and the worry is that the artist will concentrate less on actual songs and focus more on a demonstration of their capabilities (or just pure self-indulgence).
Unfortunately, for the most part, there is little on here to enjoy if you merely want something to listen to. For sure, Storey has an acute grasp of many an instrument and on the odd occasion I had to commend him for the task he set for himself; however, as a whole this unsurprisingly fell into a quagmire of desperate sounds that lost form or function as the album progressed.
As a concept, I commend Rapoon for at least attempting something as adventurous as the task set, although I have seen this type of quest attempted on many occasion before; and it was of no surprise that the outcome would be anything less than the dull, lifeless exercise that we have here.
EPIDEMIA: Biofilms CD Diskus Fonografika
Here we have the latest output from Mexico’s Chuiy Bitios; inspired by and to coincide with the films of Loris Hantzis. I was deeply impressed with how the project had grown with his last output ‘Bradykardia’ displaying a high level of growth and maturity to Bitios’ work since the project’s inception.
Opening in mid 80’s soundtrack fashion, we have the title track opener flowing into the ‘Glory Box Mix’ of ‘Dosificación’; featuring Noiz + Zilenth And Loris Hantzis. With one simplistic dance beat, whispered vocals and a multitude of simplistic electronics reek of atmosphere throughout a cavern of spatial awareness. One area where Epidemia has upped his game is with his noise production. Often in the past, production swamped the distorted beat so it lacked power; and I am happy to report that this is simply no longer the case.
The Dark Ambient resonance of ‘Industrial Poisons’ provides another string to Epidemia’s bow, whilst ‘Dolichovespula’ grinds merrily along as a shuddering heartbeat; leaving the greatest surprise in the form of the arpeggio led ‘Cacofonía Del Mundo Exterior’. Here, the synths are prevalent in providing the main source of sound, layered across a mass of distortion.
Variety is key to ‘Biofilms’ success as a body of work. Epidemia has taken the time to produce an album that is different to his last release, but no less engaging. I did prefer ‘Bradykardia’ due to its almost Post-Punk ethos (although that’s just down to a matter of personal taste); but together with this work, both albums set Bitios in good stead moving forward with this project, almost abandoning previous output’s limitations.
HÅKON STENE: Lush Laments For Lazy Mammal CD Hubro
Droning singular pad work opens up ‘Lush Laments…’ with ‘Prelude to HS’, leading into the off-key and deeply reverberated piano work of ‘Hi-Tremolo’; ascending into a crescendo of spangling ambience.
With various instrumentation along the way, such as Vibraphone, Marimba, E-bow, guitars and keyboards; Stene along with various colleagues, produce sparse interpretations of spatial awareness that cling onto silence, like dew threatens to drip form the branches of a tree.
Patience is the key factor when listening to this album; and a quiet room, sat alone with nothing but your thoughts for company, is essential. Due to the nature of drones and ambient work, the former is the hardest to accomplish, if to achieve anything of note; and luckily the compositional talents of Håkon Stene and his cohorts manage this task well.
As an album, whilst fairing well, this isn’t on the same par as say ‘The [Law-Rah] Collective and such like. It pays to create long-resonating soundscapes that evolve ever so slightly quicker; and for me this is the projects’ small failing, in that there is a tendency to meander too much, allowing for elements of disinterest to creep in.
However, as an introduction to the genre, Stene and friends provide nine momentary glimpses of self-awareness and contemplation that are well worth picking up should you come across them and the mood take you.
BUILDING INSTRUMENT: s/t LP/CD Hubro
The trio of Building Instrument provide an ensemble of analogue and electronic musicianship; almost folk-like in its approach, with a touch of programming that gives an almost cut and paste quality to the output.
The vocals of Mari Kvien Brunvoll, provide an emotive exploration of pitch, resounding beauty and harmony that carry the production well throughout. Treated and sculpted into the drum-work and chiming ambience through subtlety, they’re the key weapon in Building Instrument’s arsenal.
Musically speaking though, this album isn’t always to my taste. Melody wise this threesome are strong, but I am not a lover of some of the sound sources, where it all becomes a touch too earth mother-ish and hippy like for me to find any affinity with.
There are moments along the way that I can latch onto, such as the almost trip-hop isms of the glorious ‘Kanskje’, where Brunvoll comes alive, reminiscent of the vocal styling of Halou. Singing in Norwegian, it barely matters that I can’t understand any utterance, as passion seeps from every corner of her being.
Building Instrument are a peculiar bunch that find a direct symmetry between the obscure and easy listening, that as a whole sit comfortably as bedfellows. My personal preference is that going forward they remain revelling in obscurity, ignoring any penchant for commercialism.