OZMOTIC | FENNESZ: Air Effect LP/CD Folk Wisdom/SObject
Any release that involves the genius of Christian Fennesz, will grab my attention; and this time he has joined in collaboration with electronic duo, OZmotic to produce an album thematically drawn from the concept of a discovery of a black box lost in the Anthropocene era.
Field recordings provided the foundations for the album; but are utilised correctly as a simple bedrock to lay a wash of electronics across. OZmotic bring their fair share of Jazz influence to the mix too, but it’s done with the subtlety and desperation that the release demands, with no instrument taking over and hogging the limelight.
Things really pick up on track three, ‘Run to Ruin’ with up-paced beats and modern electronica spliced with vocal samples and the unmistakable guitar of Fennesz. Once again there is a heavy Jazz element to the overall sound, but this has been drenched with the fruits of other influences.
‘Air Effect’ throws together a number of genres that shouldn’t entirely work. However, the thought processes and obvious talent behind the release, collectively have produced an intriguing, peculiar, yet ultimately listenable collection of tracks that smash together a number of opposing forces that are as engaging as they are odd.
DÄLEK: From the Filthy Tongues of Gods and Griots 2xLP/CD Ici d’Ailleurs
In 2002, the duo that is Dälek met up with Mike Patton (yes, he of Faith No More fame) and he released this very same album (the bands second), on his Ipecac label. This release eventually went out of print and has now been picked up by Ici d’ailleurs.
For those that have not yet been initiated, along with producer Oktopus, Dälek produce a grime ridden Industrial visceral mash-up of Hip-Hop that is as brutal and dark and relevant as it has ever been. The lyrics of ‘Spiritual Healing’ drip with many a question tinged with overtones of contempt and the underlying message that music is actually their only saviour.
I have to admit; I am not the greatest lover of Hip-Hop overall. However, ‘From the Filthy Tongues…’ does strike a chord with me in its construction and amalgamation with its more than fitting Industrial overtones. If truth-be-told, it’s more industrial than many an artist that lay claim to the moniker, due to its gritty nature and guttural urban grind.
Versatile in rapping and spoken word, Dälek also manage to hold sway with pace. The tracks work seamlessly as a whole and give the necessary pick up when things get darker. Dynamically sound as production values go, there is many a string to their bow that set them apart from the norm; and it’s good to see this release see light of day once again. Hip-Hop may not be a genre of choice for everyone (myself included), but Dälek really do things that little bit different to everyone else.
LABFIELD: Bucket of Songs CD Hubro
Labfield return with their third album that differs greatly from their previous affair, ‘Collab’ which concentrated their efforts on soundscapes. This time they focus on the dangerous game that is improvisation, with the rattled percussion of opener ‘Ragged Line Reversed’ intercepted with analogue grinds and drones.
Gentle string instrumentation patters along on ‘Page 55’ with little effect on the senses, but ultimately makes more sense on ‘Temporary Reasons’ as harmonics draw everything together in a more cohesive fashion; leading up to the sparse title track.
‘Intercourse in Bad Manners’ takes a singular drone and applies the odd electronic whir. Unfortunately for Labfield, this is where things take a turn for the worse, where their experimental outbursts fumble and become nothing more than pointless tedium.
As before, the re-application of instrumentation from earlier tracks joins in the party; and for me everything becomes a tad messy, formless and lacking structure of anything tangible. Awash with clean instrumentation, the lack of any key structure leaves the latter half of ‘Bucket of Songs’ sounding jumbled and unlistenable.
HUNTSVILLE: Pond 2xLP/CD Hubro
Huntsville formed nine years ago and the trio have had a number of releases out and played over a hundred shows; and with that background should by now have the skill required to produce an album of great integrity.
As analogue as the instrumentation is, there is an overall electronic feel to the release and ‘Pond’ opens up with ‘(ER)’; which for the most part, utilises a dub foundation that is sporadically accompanied with sliding guitars and pads.
The overtly experimental ‘(ING)’ is pleasant and warm enough not to meander into self-gratification, whilst the ambient led ‘(AGE)’ sparkles and generates a peculiar, yet engaging array of folding guitar work.
Closer ‘(OK)’ builds ever so slowly, with a subtle fusion of tympani, guitar feedback and harmonics floating over a low-key heartbeat; closing the curtain on four lengthy, yet effective tracks that require a modicum of patience to thoroughly appreciate what’s on offer.
‘Pond’ will not necessarily set the world alight and will ultimately have a niche market, but is rewarding enough to give it a chance should you have a spare hour.
SUPERSIMMETRIA: Kosmogonie CD HANDS
The third album from Armando Alibrandi and the first under the HANDS label, covering a number of styles that always make good bedfellows.
Opener ‘Monodromia’ ticks one of my boxes straight away, with a barrage of Dark Ambient tinged with futuristic appeal; that gradually flows into a thumping, clinical techno driven beat. Alibrandi clearly likes his sounds polished and shiny; and this certainly hits the mark.
‘Casimir Effect’ grabs the baton handed over from track one and adds an Industrial edge compositionally speaking. Add some ghostly harmonies for good measure and everything gels perfectly, with the ethereal slant giving Supersimmetria its own voice.
There is a set formula to this project and in fairness ‘Kosmogonie’ doesn’t dare veer from its chosen path; and whilst that is a mild criticism, it doesn’t deter me as a listener in this case. I like sparse and OCD construction when it comes to music and Armando makes sure his tracks are scrubbed brutally clean; much in the same way his label mate Geistform does, minus a lot of the glitch (Geistform actually appears on this release in the form of a remix for ‘No Signal’ and is a good choice).
Being a sucker for choir chants, heavy beats and cute electronics, Supersimmetria for me, has produced an album that works excellently with its chosen aesthetic; and is thematically bang on the money from start to finish, even with the tendency to become a little samey in parts.
ILLEGAL TRADE: Acid For the Royal Family CD HANDS
You may recognise the pair who collectively call themselves Illegal Trade. Indeed this is the side project of Natasha A. Twentyone and Alexey Protasov who are better known as Ambassador21. Of course, with no other cohorts involved there is always the worry that this project won’t sound too dissimilar to A21; and of course, it’s not really surprising when it doesn’t.
Opener ‘Olga is Dead’ starts off like an Ambassador 21 track, minus any riotous vocals; but is followed up with the title track, following the old school Hands formula of powernoise. With a computer game edge to the electronics; beats splice and crash and fall over themselves effectively to produce a barrage of destructive Gabba, that should at least, go down well live.
Time has moved on for me somewhat. I still have a penchant for distorted beat and rhythmic noise and I always go back to the old faves when the mood takes me; however, there is little out there that is actually new that really stirs me. Illegal Trade does its job and applies itself well, but if I am to be brutally honest, it’s all too easy for boredom to set in if a band follows a lineal approach in this manner from start to finish without much variation.
There is the odd snippet on this album that does it for me still and overall Illegal Trade have done an old genre some justice. The die-hards that still exist out there should get a lot out of this; and hitting their target audience in the appreciation stakes, is all Natasha and Alexey have to achieve.
BIOSPHERE / DEATHPROD: Stator LP/CD Touch
Norwegian duo Biosphere and Deathprod have been releasing solo works for some time now; approaching the electronic music scene from a slight difference in angle of attack. Whereas the former is noted for his ambient and Techno leanings, the latter concentrates on homemade electronics.
As a joint effort to create this album, I expected collaboration on all tracks; but in this case we have three from Geir Jenssen’s Biosphere and four from Helge Sten’s Deathprod. Thematically drawing a concept from an electrical engineering perspective of rotary machines and generators, or the fixed blades of an axial flow compressor, may not be the most conventional of subject matters; but musically speaking, everything relates cohesively.
Subtle harmonics are the key to what makes this album work so well. Background key changes by Biosphere, offset well against mechanical grinds and subtle distortions, providing an engaging rising ambient picture, of great depth and resonance.
In contrast, Deathprod’s analogue interpretations add a variation to the proceedings that create balance. Less mechanical than his cohort, he provides a summery tone to the overall feel of the release that offers light to Biosphere’s autumnal slants; with the occasional winter frost and spring bounce, to nail down a whole season of sounds.
Overall, ‘Stator’ is an engaging album that requires a fair amount of patience to appreciate the attention to detail on offer. For those that take the plunge, the results are ever more rewarding with a stark lesson in Dark Ambient/off-key electronic bliss.