SLIPDRIVE: Cosmos Redshift 7 DL Self Released
It seems like a small age since I last heard anything from Keef Baker. Of course he has been busy playing live for other acts since sadly folding his main project (under his own name) and he has dipped his toes in other work; but it has been four years since the debut Slipdrive album ‘River of Heaven’, making this latest output long overdue.
Opening with ‘The End of the Beginning of Nothing’, you are immediately drawn into the loading bay where Slipdrive’s shuttle has been docked all these years; ready to embark on Baker’s journey through Galaxies unknown, to the tune of crystal clear synth lines that provide the interstellar pathways and direction of travel.
Keef as always, enforces on the listener his unquestionable skills with approach to melody and clinical precision of beat work. Just enough space is given between track layering for pads to slide and weave with dramatic hook-lines to snare and pull the listener along for the ride.
‘Cosmos Redshift 7’ has a duality to it. One that perfectly compliments the debut thematically speaking, whilst also touching on areas he has visited long before on his dissolved main output (with more than a touch of ‘Redeye’ to the mix). This is a joy to hear, but also begs a question as to whether he could be coerced into revitalising the past once more and picking up the mantle he discarded long ago now.
As a whole, this is unsurprisingly, a great album that displays maturity and attention to detail as with all of Baker’s works; and one you should hunt out at all costs.
CONNY OLIVETTI: Discomfort with Benefits CD/DL Self Released
A peculiar artist, with an eclectic approach to electronic music; Olivetti’s latest album work comprises of analogue synth and an array of vocal and instrument samples that do at least provide a touch of originality to the quirkiness of his work.
Ambient backdrops interweave with chirpy bleeps and arpeggiated dancing notes, which are as emotive as they are peculiar and child-like. It is of course the latter description, which for me best portrays Conny’s output. There is a sense of carefree abandonment with much of the album approaching the listener from a playful and somewhat sunny disposition.
You could be forgiven that there is little complexity to the arrangements on ‘Discomfort with Benefits’. Whilst the application of sound provides an altogether easy listening experience, there is method behind the simplistic madness, which does somewhat ease the hooks under the skin with little resistance.
APORIE: Control DL Self-Released
Germany’s Aporie are one of those oddities where I genuinely wonder how why he hasn’t been snapped up by a label yet. With an array of guitar ambient, folded into a web of drones and grinds that occasionally tread the same paths as shoegazers nonchalantly do, there really is a lot to offer here, should you give it space to evolve.
Things start to pick up come the mid-way mark, where everything starts to take a turn into Post-Rock territory; and this is where it Aporie comes into his own progressively speaking, with more than a nod to Fennesz here and there ambience wise.
As far as production values go, this covers a wide range where the reverberations carry the notes and soar. My only reservation is that it does sound a touch ‘bright’ in parts; and this is where he could maybe rein it in a little, so it doesn’t ring the ears through attrition.
As a whole, Aporie could have a bright future if he approaches the right people. I would have been tempted to send this out to a few labels as opposed to releasing it myself if I were him; as it’s definitely hard-copy worthy.
THOMAS PARK: The Emissions Series DL Self-Released
A peculiar submission no less, but one which is trying to tackle a subject that is effecting us all. Climate change, unbelievably has its fair share of detractors and those in denial; and it’s somewhat ridiculous that some won’t face up to the facts that have been presented to us as a destructive species, by and large.
As a series of six ‘Emissions’, Park starts of the proceedings with an instructive track informing the listener as to what they are about to be faced with. I quite like the narrative approach, although it did catch me off guard; like I was about to watch an episode of the Twilight Zone.
Musically speaking, Thomas covers a range of layered gritty Dark Ambient , bordering on the Industrial edge as far as the mechanics of the machine like sounds are interpreted. ‘The Emissions Series’ takes a linear path on most tracks and lets the subtle intricacies do the talking; such as interweaving scratches of sound that lightly claw at the fog that sits upon well controlled drones.
As a whole, this album provides a well-meant statement that we should all be taking note of. It wouldn’t be so immediately evident without the aforementioned narrative, or indeed the accompanying bio; but all the same, there is some kudos to be applied here, on an album that I genuinely appreciated and enjoyed from start to finish.
CAUSTIC REVERIE: Ultra Vires DL Self-Released
Bryn Schurman’s Caustic Reverie, approach ambient from a lighter path. This is not to be said that it doesn’t have its darker moments; but ‘Ultra Vires’ tend s to lean more to the light, with a blend of what appear to be treated field recordings, manipulated into (and alongside) drawn out drones.
The end result provides eight tracks that capitalise on space and reverberated tones that glide and fold together, giving each other just enough space to breathe. As a whole this works well enough to provide consistency and a cohesive quality throughout; however it does tend to get a touch wrapped up in its chosen path and could use a small amount of variation to take it that one step further.
Overall, this is a decent stab at ambient that steers away from sounding over-processed and ultimately digital, as so many other albums out there; and is a steady, inoffensive listen from start to finish.
DEEP DARK: Grey Motions DL Self-Released
Russia’s Deep Dark approach Dark Ambient from the traditional sense of the genre. Earthly qualities run as an undercurrent and foundation to a multitude of layers that gradually build stylistically, on each of the tracks presented on this album, titled ‘Motions1’ and ‘Motions 2’ respectively.
The songs themselves differ; yet tie in neatly with each other as a pair. The gritty fog that permeates ‘Motions1’ is drastically different to its counterpart; that relies mainly on pads and treatments to provide atmosphere, yet both feel as they’re coming from the same school of thought.
As a whole, Deep Dark do exactly what they say on the tin and deliver on the promise that comes from proclaiming to be of a specific genre. Apart from a couple of variations (track two could be split into two halves for me and thinned out towards the end), there isn’t much more you could want from any self respecting DA act.
FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE: Trace Formations DL Self-Released
Simplistic and sparsely presented, this latest album by FAMD completely evades giving his tracks full titles and this in itself works within the concept of the album.
‘One’ chimes low reverberated harmonies and melds well with the grit of ‘Two’ and the sinister over tones of ‘Three’. If anything, most of the tracks form a similar and functional formula that tie them altogether, therefore work in one sitting. There is an analogue edge to the projects work that sits well with me. The contrast between light and shade works well, with the job lot neither being too light, nor too dark; and therefore it’s remarkably easy on the ear as a whole.
If I have any criticism, it is that it all feels a touch too bare boned to carry much weight; and the entire release feels light it could just be rounded off with a few more layers to pad out the bottom end of the work on display. However, as stated before, FAMD doesn’t make a bad stab at producing an inoffensive, easy to pick up and play release that doesn’t require hitting the stop button until its completion.
ANDREAS DAVIDS: Die Erinnerungen Meines Vaters/Der Leere Raum EP MC/DL Self Released
Another change in form and palate from Andreas Davids takes a more reflective tone in some respects, with a two-tracker dedicated to the neatly locked away past of his father.
Davids here, explores the time he ventured into the attic to look at boxes packed with photographs, old trinkets and coins and other items; and wondered why these physical memory tokens were not up for display in the house where they lived. This is of course, a mirror into many of our own lives. I myself have boxes of photographs and other items in my loft and never take them out, preferring to display newer moments in time more relevant to my life as it stands now. Maybe it is easier for folk nowadays to play out their memories and footnotes on social media, but I am sure this is not relevant to an older generation.
A photograph, regardless of the good times it can evoke, can also stir up other memories; and it would be a lucky individual indeed (or possibly a liar) who states they do not have unhappy memories as well as good (although it is actually both that shape an individual and in some respects are essential). Maybe this is why we lock away the past to stumble across another day. Maybe it’s just a matter of space and keeping our lives fresh and new. I am sure it is different for each individual; and of course can spark curiosity in a child wanting to know more about their relations.
Either way, this is a very personal release for Andy; and it shows. Spoken word in his native tongue produces a dramatically close involvement with the tracks themselves, where the ambient on track one merely provides an atmosphere to the story being told. Track two is surprisingly more electronic; and in some respects reminds me of the tools utilised by GGFH musically. Although, the music itself is not the medium here on which to concentrate, as the bravery in application providing the score.
JAIME IRLES: A Region of Eternal Night DL Self-Released
One half of underground Spanish electronic wizards ‘Known Rebel’; Jaime Irles has taken the leap here into producing his own solo work to great effect, capitalising on his strengths and snatching lightly at many an influence with the odd smattering of originality.
Electronically speaking, there are nods to the lighter shades of dance music, treated with skipping, woven vocalisations; the most prominent of which being ‘Getaway’, which smacks ever so slightly, of Blanck Mass.
The beats are well rounded; the pads are warm and carry a necessary bounce. Pacing on the album clever intersects between the frenetic and the ability to slow things down when it is needed most.
As expected, the production values provide clarity and weight, where light reverberations are allowed to wash over the listener as the beats shudder welcomingly. A sense of modernisation that flirts with the 80’s, providing a sense of nostalgia that we all experience when summer nights are long and we have space to reflect.
Overall, this is a welcome release that shines with the abandon of what is expected from an electronic musician nowadays; and will no doubt surprise many, especially in the later stages of listening.
GRIMBERGEN: The Passing of Time CD Self released
I couldn’t have thought of a more fitting title myself. Grimbergen, one of the solo projects of Nathan Clemence has been on a self-enforced hiatus for nigh on seven years; after his initial second album, was rejected by the label that spawned his debut, ‘A lonely Place’.
This has actually worked out for the best. In this period, Clemence concentrated his creative output on the noise driven ‘Now Wash Your Hands’. In 2011 efforts were made to get this project back off the ground and the setback has ultimately led to a better album than its predecessor.
‘A Lonely Place’ was a more than competent and enjoyable release, but also one that had its flaws bedded in influences from a steadily stagnating scene, coupled with Nathan’s choice of hardware. Whilst formulating a sound all of his own, this did give a cod sci-fi feel to synth lines that just missed out on being as bombastic as they should have; leaving the project sat without a lift at a musical crossroads, genre wise (a very lonely place indeed).
‘The Passing of Time’ has a natural, organic maturity, which leads to it being a more comfortable listen; and conceptually has a sense of purpose. Genre wise, this still sits on the edges of what he was initially trying to emulate; but benefits from utilising its individuality, rather than faltering into the mire created by an oversaturation of Neo-Folk and Dark Ambient acts, that pathetically stagnate whilst leaning on their right hands.
The Neo-Classical/Dark Ambient scene has a niche following and one that a lot of people simply cannot abide. Grimbergen has here however, produced an album that should interest parties from both sides of the coin; retaining enough for stalwarts not to turn their noses up at, whilst having a form of crossover appeal for those tempted to dip their toes in the water.