[BASEMENTGRRR]: Destroy Everything CD Raumklang Music
I have always found [basementgrrr] to be a bit of an oddity musically speaking (let alone the name), where the lines between genres are clearly evident and don’t make comfortable bedfellows, due to the nature of styles colliding.
On ‘Destroy Everything’, there is clear evidence of this approach once again, where songs display an uncomfortable duality. Not quite Industrial, not exactly electronica, with undercurrents of Power Electronics structurally in the loosest sense of the terminology. However, credit has to be given in the progression stakes; where songs such as ‘Aeon’ delve into Prog Rock territory, without any other outside influence to cause a wobble on the path the track takes. It is clearly evident then, that [basementgrrr] can pick a specific genre when he chooses; and ultimately stick to it.
There is as much about this project that I like as much as I find uneasy to digest. I always find myself torn between momentary flashes of brilliance and a quagmire of sounds that don’t seem to gel; and this album epitomises that experience no less than some of my earlier encounters.
DIRK GEIGER: Dreams Die Quietly CD Raumklang Music
A surprising twist in approach here and an ultimately darker one with Geiger drawing on murky ambient as the bedrock to his latest release and as a lover of all that is Dark Ambient, this is a welcome listen personally as well.
Solitary Morse like bleeps echo through the ether, lighter pads are kept to a ghostly minimum; and the rhythms when they come, approach with a hypnotic tribalism. All the key ingredients for someone approaching a genre; not so much as becoming fully enveloped, but as to dip their toe in, so to speak. It’s this loitering at the precipice of the pit, that makes this album work more than if they had launched themselves completely into the depths of the genre with complete abandon; and provides an ultimately different perspective on the proceedings.
Long time fans of Geiger will most likely understand and appreciate this shift in timbre more than the casual listener; fully able to acknowledge the concept behind this latest opus. On the flip side of the chart, blue blood DA enthusiasts will still be able to enjoy the lighter aspects this album provides, respectively speaking; even if some of Dirk’s other output may be anathema to them. On both sides of the coin then, it appears Geiger has his bases covered; and I found this a refreshing album to indulge my senses with.
ACCESS TO ARASKA / ERODE / DIRK GEIGER: Reports From the Abyss CD Raumklang Music
Combining their talents and working collectively as one band, was always going to raise questions as to what the output would be when placing these three individual acts together as a whole; and the results are somewhat surprising given the IDM nature of at least two of these artists, to say the least.
The opening and title track harks back to an era of early electro Industrial with layered vocals and synths that are as dense as they come. The rhythms have a skittish and stilted nature to them, altogether offbeat; and an indicator of the difference between the three minds that have come together as one.
As expected there are melodies aplenty on display here, alongside variation into other areas of electronic music (that are more akin to their individual projects) running as an undercurrent and foundation, altering the standard Haujobb-esque motions that dance over the top of them; and thus making for an ultimately unique and enjoyable experience overall.
The latter half of the album contains remixes from other acts and provide an altogether expected but no less engrossing experience; with the likes of Displacer and Lights Out Asia drawing on their own strengths, which do ultimately have their individual footnotes firmly stamped all over them. I would have liked more output from the three main protagonists than drawing on mixes to complete the album; but the overall listening experience doesn’t suffer either way for it.
As a whole, ‘Reports From The Abyss’ has a multitude of facets that should appeal to listeners of genres that collectively huddle under the same umbrella.
[BASEMENTGRRR]: [HURT] CD Raumklang Music
The fundamentals of this third album from Ralf Gatzen are on point. Cinematic electronics and key attention to vocalisations give ‘[HURT]’ a form of gravitas I haven’t encountered before with this project; and the opening gambit, ‘Rituals’ is a prime example of everything Ralf can do well when he is focussed.
Momentary flashes of brilliance creep in throughout this album, which does have a more progressive approach to it than previous output. Consistency is less of an issue here, as for the most part there appears to be more of a concept at play; and that gives the album a rigid core, where the fundamentals are stronger overall.
I am still not a fan of the drum sounds utilised on [basementgrrr] as a whole; and more work could have been done in this area. It’s fair to say that some of the better tracks on here would have sounded colossal if he had given them some more thought (or indeed if it had just been ambient).
Overall, this is the best album I have heard from this project yet. Just a little more work on approach and sound sources, could provide an end result that is nothing short of monumental.
HOTARU BAY: 11 Songs + One CDr Raumklang Music
Sparse artwork gives little away as to what is on offer from this latest work from Grauraum, letting his music solely do the talking. As the opening chiming pads and rich bass drenched beats kick through the speakers with ‘1 of 11 Songs + One’, It’s immediately evident that the listener is in for a treat; with ranging emotional IDM, being Hotaru Bay’s staple ingredient.
‘Dominanzversagen’ focuses the attentions on a darker range of ambient, accompanied by wire-like tinged simplistic rhythms allowing atmospherics to ooze through and dissipate into an aural mist of a driving soundtrack, that melds well into the glitch infused ‘5.24am’.
As with a lot of acts from this stable, you can never get away from the underlying influences; and whilst HB pulls on references that occasionally remind me of Gridlock, he does take credit for providing his own take on the genre in competent fashion. Grauraum likes to take the listener on a lengthy journey, letting you pause at key moments in space and time, allowing you to ponder at the vision he is presenting.
Hotaru Bay is a good all rounder that gets away with a lot by taking little risk. Nothing is truly original if I am to be fair, but where some albums are a collection of outstanding flashes of brilliance with an array of fillers, HB manages to drive linear clarity from start to finish; that is solid and complimentary to the genre as a whole.
Overall, an enjoyable and engaging release that provides an insight into future avenues, where I am sure Hotaru could deliver something truly monumental.
LETZTE AUSFAHRT LEBEN: Mirrage CDr Raumklang Music
Germany’s LAL open up the proceedings with a tense urgency, as sirens ring and distorted ambience slips and slides dramatically; as subtle beats and tribal percussion patter in repetition. In contrast, ‘Damnation’ carries the ambience in PE fashion as a more familiar structure takes hold with the drum structures; the blend of the two forces works well and once again, it’s a tense affair.
Letzte Ausfahrt Leben play with monotony with the same familiarity of bands such as Sonar. It’s a key ingredient to the overall hypnosis of the music; that holds the listener in a fixed state of concentration as opposed to boring them to death. A clever use of vocal sampling works well with the distorted beat/powernoise blend and this also assists in keeping ‘Mirrage’ from stagnating.
LAL also have the ability to turn it on when needed; and the title track ups the pace somewhat, but blends harmony into the torrid mix; and dare I say it smacks occasionally of originality. However the main ingredient that keeps this artist relevant is the ability to mix up the tracks effectively with pace and sincerity; no two tracks follow the same path, alternating between the singular monotony I mentioned previously and up-paced frenetic club beating, coupled with smatterings of Dark Ambient.
Overall, an interesting release that wouldn’t be out of place on the Hands label as far as styles go. Not a world-beater, but engaging none-the-less and worthy of investing some time in.
[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.
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.