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.
EXOSPHERE: Where Nobody Goes CD Raumklang Music
This Swiss/Swedish combo lay their cards on the table from the moment you hit play; organic elements open up the proceedings with ‘1st Movement’ that gradually build with gentle harmonies and scrapings of sound that are backed up with warm pads; it’s a promising start to the album that really sets the listener on a journey with the drifting and aptly titled ‘Spacefeel’ taking over the steering wheel to great effect.
A great deal of effort is evident throughout this release with the translation of atmospherics, positioned with great care and attention to detail. Occasionally Exosphere purely toy with ambience, quite often they purely rely on driven IDM; where they excel the most is when these two forces come together, more often than not on the same track, ‘Tears of an Unknown World’ and ‘T-Y’ being a prime example of this.
‘Where Nobody Goes’ is a thoroughly solid release from start to finish, it won’t set the world alight with genius, but is more than competent in its execution and the occasional moments of beauty that filter through are more than worthy of your hard earned cash alone.