TONIKOM: Found and Lost CD Hymen Records
It’s been two years for this third release for Hymen Records to appear from Rachel Maloney’s Tonikom. Two long years of contemplation, regarding her creative output under this banner and rediscovering her emotional building blocks of this project.
‘Across its Glassy Surface’, represents an essential catharsis. Understated rhythmical programming allowing for a wash of soulful, breathing pads and gentle harmonies that travel gently through the speakers like the waking from a long uninterrupted slumber.
Once more we have wonderful collection of tracks that cover a wide range of electronic music as a whole. Light spangles of wiry blips and chimes whirl and sporadically spit out over random, yet intentional percussion encompassing the basic key factors of IDM, break-beat and modern ambient dub sensibilities; never more so evident than on the fantastic chamber echoes of ‘Stumble’.
What we have with ‘Found and Lost’ is a slight deviation from the norm more often than not. The tendency to side step into different territories provides a welcome change in form, with light dance sub-plots evolving into the core structure of Tonikom, with the wonderfully modern ‘Lost to the Flames’, providing the listener with a possible future avenue that this venture may take form and evolve within.
Angina P and Haujobb end this latest release with standard but effective remixes that befit the styles they individually bring to the table. I am always a bit wary of remixes closing the show, but these do not detract from what is, all in all, an outstanding resurgence of an act that has taken a well deserved break.
TERMINAL11: Self Exorcism CD Hymen Records
Static cut and paste backwards sampling open this latest album from Terminal11 with the introductory ‘Runs From the Rain’. A sturdy yet oozing pace that reeks of its own psychosis, formulating into track two ‘Paralysis’, introducing warping bass and sub undercurrents of slick, yet ever so slight dub-step isms.
Things step up a gear on ‘Start Over’ as the lunatics are slowly released from their shackles. The electronics are off-key and a barrage of pitter-pattering beats collect into a landslide that gradually collects momentum on its descending fall.
Whilst the talent is fairly obvious, I struggled a great deal to warm to this album as a whole. The collective mash of so many sporadic and messed up patterns that fall over themselves far often than I presume is intentional, left me far too detached to become involved as a listener.
I commend the skill of programming displayed; indeed the light-hearted approach to playful intersections throughout the album, but for me the soul of this project has been firmly tethered and restricted, leaving behind a competent release that unfortunately provides no opening to join the party they’re clearly revelling in.
BEN LUKAS BOYSEN: RESTIVE (OST) CD Hymen Records
Readers of this review may recognise Ben Lukas Boysen more from his alter ego, Hecq; Boysen has dipped his toe into other waters and here we have another venture into providing soundtracks for contemporary filmmakers.
‘RESTIVE’ is written and directed by American, Jeremiah Jones and centralises around a bizarre tale of a mother inhabiting her husbands suffocating behaviour, in effect a love story; I have to admit I have not seen the movie and it’s not often I get to hear an official soundtrack before setting my eyes on the silver screen adaptation that it accompanies.
Setting that aside I often approach OST’s with due caution, giving that the music often comes in short bursts and altogether does not actually comprise of actual tracks; not so in this case as it appears that Boysen has actually composed full numbers that can be listened to in their own right. This pleases me immensely.
This free reign given has let Ben flex his wings somewhat and the outcome is nothing short of impressive; haunting ambience frostily soars throughout, with brooding dark pockets of organically rich bass and piano filtered through windows covered in raindrops.
It’s about time that music makers from this genre were given more opportunities to compose soundtracks like this; indeed there is more than enough that comes from IDM/alternative electronics genre and associated scenes to already blow away a lot of the usual marketed scores out there, maybe someone somewhere will one day sit up and take note.
On the flip side of the coin, I will most likely go and hunt this movie out now considering the wonderful array of compositions I have in front of me; well done Mr Boysen for another excellent display of your musical capabilities.
VNDL: Gahrena:Paysages Électriques CD Hymen Records
Philippe Vandal from Canada lays a fair few influences on the table in his press blurb and all of which are fairly evident throughout this release; Fennesz being the one that stands out most of all.
This is quite the broken up affair; indeed the opener, right up halfway through track two ‘Crunx’, is a mash of off-kilter sporadic electronics only truly making sense once the treated Cure like guitar lines make an appearance, followed up with scattered beats.
Label mate Nebulo makes an appearance come track four ‘Bragg’ and adds more of a cohesive structure to the array of gentle insanity that appears to be the all too evident trademark of VNDL as a whole. This will be a welcome break for the uninitiated listener, as VNDL’s approach to alternative electronics is purely eclectic; the stop/start nature as a whole will undoubtedly be confusing and teetering on pointless to some.
I like to view ‘Gahrena’ more as an art form and an album that wouldn’t be out of place on the shelf next to some of the Mego labels better releases, really coming into its own come ‘Novar’, which a fantastic representation of wholesome and talented IDM.
This is one of those albums that will take a fair while to bed in for a lot of listeners out there; I feel the patience will be worth the wait, as with time this will sneak into those corners of your mind, bed down and become better with age, much like a fine wine.
CDATAKILL: Battleworn CD Hymen Records
With an expansive back catalogue and lengthy musical history, Zack Roberts is back after five years with another full album release, now progressing label wise to the quality driven monolith that is Hymen.
‘Battleworn’ relies heavily on dub-step, differing from previous releases somewhat in its approach from the more relaxed affair, ‘Valentine’; the first three songs melding together almost as one track apart from the silences on track markers.
‘Dirty up Your Mind’ is where things really start coming to life; breaking rhythms are sporadically torn apart, remoulded and tossed in with hap-hazard electronics and off range ambience, reminding me somewhat of previous works; it’s a version of Cdatakill that I am more familiar with.
The most impressive output on this album has to be ‘God Will Cut You Down’; cleverly infusing the precise vocal samplings of Johnny Cash into well-composed electronics and mid-paced beats; it’s an inspiring mix of styles that gives the album the necessary change of direction at a mid way point.
‘The World is Coming to Another End’, is a fitting closure before the obligatory mixes start; a mash of beats and organic guitar driven sounds, that I feel thematically is digging at the whole apocalyptical 2012 saga. I feel this is really where Roberts should have ended ‘Battleworn’; the remixes of the title track and ‘I Swear’ are great, don’t get me wrong, but they do come across as a detachment to the rest of the album. Overall however, this is a solid return for Cdatakill and long may he continue; good to see him back.
FRANK RIGGIO: Psychexcess 1 – Presentism CD Hymen Records
This is the first I have heard from this French/Sicilian composer and I am sure it’s not going to be the last; if like me you find your way to hearing the first episode of this proposed trilogy, I should imagine you will be eager to consume the next two chapters when they surface.
Riggio reigns in obscure organic instrumentation, wrapping confusion in off kilter electronics that border on the beautiful and horrific, melding together sounds like I have never heard coupled before; ‘Presentism’ as a whole (personified in the title track) is one of the most original albums I have heard in quite some time, often hinting at genius.
There is something altogether different with this release that I can’t quite put my finger on; it’s as if each track is pieced together with each individual layer having its own agenda and mini cinematic episodes are played out side by side as the soundtrack to two layers of film that are casually placed over each other.
‘Presentism’ is not going to be for everyone out there; make no mistake this is purely for those that have an adventurous and broad imagination. Peculiar yet familiar in equal measure, there is so much to take on board with this first instalment, only those who can stomach music lacking an attachment to any specific genre will gorge on this extremely intelligent and glorious affair.
Appreciating however that this album will not be for everyone, indeed some elements were too much for me to swallow at times, I applaud ‘Psychexcess 1’ wholeheartedly as something genuinely different, nay, inspirational in its entire composition.
SOMATIC RESPONSES: Concrete Glider CD Hymen Records
Gentle harmonies, wire like electronics and subtle beats open up the latest welcome instalment from this Welsh duo in the fitting form of ‘Science and Emotion’, laying the foundations for their new release as building blocks for what is to come.
The paranoid electronic beat work of ‘First Day Back’ is back to a typical SR format of what we expect and its like they never left; the frenetic pace of this number gets this kick started properly and purposely leads into ‘Fairy Light Massacre’, where the pace of the drums slows ever so slightly to let the insanity be taken over by the electronics alone.
There is a slant on this album to lean towards IDM influences more so than before, a prime example of which being the crackers ‘Mistaken Sponge’ (what?); either way as head wrecking as this is, it’s a fun romp through broken mashed up beats and off kilter sounds that play with your head.
‘Concrete Glider’ never teeters off the path with its formula as a whole. Visceral rhythmic work, harsh and subtle blips and electronics throughout keep you on the edge of your seat and never truly let up, sometimes flirting with break-core and drum n’ bass, sometimes emotional and ever so often pulling on resources from an Industrial slant with the engaging ‘Aaltomatic’ and the destructive almost digital hardcore-isms of the fantastic ‘Quick Releasr’ which is completely brutal.
From here on in the lunatics are running the asylum and the title track is an absolute head bender of the highest proportions, it’s furious and explosive and I can imagine this being an absolute belter live; and a much needed reprieve comes along in ambient form in the shape of ‘Replicant Loss’ just at the right time.
All in all this is a fun release that more often than not should be played at a ridiculously high volume just to clean out the cobwebs. Neither entirely easy listening, nor unlistenable, Somatic Responses have produced an excellent album that should also sound awesome on the live circuit too.