July 19, 2007

Avus - Furry Hat / Spnkr

A pleasant surprise is rarely a bad thing, being both enjoyable and unexpected. Cynicism is just as bored of itself as it is the world. A dash of cynicism can save you from later shames, but even a dash too much makes the sweetest puss sour. Going record digging, the strange vicissitudes of wet/dry and gush/clench really influence your obsessions. How many of you have had a “buy on sight” label that, based on a string of disappointments, you’ve written off totally? I confess I was just about to put Border Community into the ignore and disparage basket, but then along comes Avus to right my wrong-headed skull.

“Furry Hat” is warm, with a da-dudding bassline that’s nicely trancey, grounding the whole thing in BC’s fargone past at a summer field, way back in some psilocybin dreamtime. A little like some of Jesse Somfay’s work, Avus here manages a nice contrast between the lighter, granular elements written over the top and the deep, warm presence of the lower frequencies. The “Feedbackapella” stands on its own as an ambient track, and is just long enough to highlight the composition’s glassy high tone crescendo before the boredoms arrive. “Spnkr” continues with the “da-ga-da” bassline sound, but this time pairs it with some sandpaper-dry snares and a fairly tight, high-pitched kick which is then doubled as the track goes on, giving you twice the bass for your face. Like all the Border Community releases (and in homage to their prog/trance roots) the EP is totally modular, full of tools ready to be looped, cut, re-edited and arranged a la carte. It’s on this tip that the “Acid Paddle Tool” version of “Spnkr” comes into its own. Loopy, useful and kicking, it oddly ends up as my favourite track of the EP.

Border Community / 16 BC
[Peter Chambers]

June 18, 2007

Chymera - Satura / Arabesque

While it’s A-side evokes shades of Claro’s neo-Detroit classic “Peace of Mind,” “Arabesque” is the one that sticks in your head. It’s nearly twice the length of “Satura,” but it needs the room to stretch out - how else to revel in the neo-prog essentials? (Deep Connaisseur chords and a lithe melody line cutting over top, natch.) The title is kinda despicable in the way that “Orientalesque” might be, but it helps in defining what mental images might pop up along the way so we’ll let it slide this time. As an opening salvo in his 2007 campaign to take over dancefloors (this 12″ was released in January, three others have since followed), Chymera has laid down the gauntlet. It won’t be long before Border Community comes a-calling.

Tishomingo Music / TM007
[Nina Phillips]

June 12, 2007

Ame - Balandine

Ame might’ve kept their doses in a time-released capsule for their last hit “Rej,” which, despite being one of the largest tracks of 2005, still ended up doing a victory lap throughout clubs in 2006. So it needs to be said from the start that “Balandine” isn’t as likely to have the same set of legs. And thats totally fine, as the track is just too busy ratcheting up tension over its 11 jaw-clenching minutes to worry about its shelf life (note to DJs: start your engines now). For once, the baiting mid-song quip - “As if anyone of you could just go back” - is unabashedly appropriate. The songs bass is more than happy to try to hit the legendary brown note, shake up planets like snow globes, and even make the frantic backbeat sound measly in comparison. It’s bound to get caned to death this summer, so appreciate the sprint of “Balandine” while it’s still fresh. B-side “Enoi” tries to play the same game but falls short, this time the vocal samples wind up puncturing the song’s inflating tension.

Innervisions / INNERVISIONS11
[Nate DeYoung]

June 6, 2007

Gui Boratto - Chromophobia Remixe Part 1

Like Booka Shade or Hkan Lidbo, Gui Boratto has an extensive background as a “hired gun”, and has produced all kinds of tracks to order. Chromophobia, his debut on Kompakt, is likewise a finely fashioned piece of work by somebody who knows their way around a studio and is intent on manufacturing a product with polish and care. The album sounds exactly as Boratto had intended, which is both its strength and (ultimately) its limit.

This remix EP is also “exactly what you’d expect” - close your eyes and imagine either Robert Babicz or The Field remixing Boratto and (if you’ve any imagination) you’d probably conceive of something almost identical to what’s being offered here. Babicz’s mix of “Mr. Decay” is typically loud, fruity, and rich (his tracks always “sound” about 10% fatter than anyone elses) with his quasi-Wagnerian love of massive stabs and huge malfunctioning reverb breakdowns. With the mids-heavy bassline driving things along here, this is also as close to Alex Smoke as Babicz has ever sounded, but ultimately it’s neither Babicz’s best work nor a magical translation of the original. The Field’s rework of “Hera” does the equivalent of cutting a photograph into tiny squares and then sticking them back togetherin almost exactly the same place. Both mixes are competent works by talented producers reworking decent tracks by a conspicuous professional - but thats not enough, theres no surprise here, nothing dangerous or truly unexpected. Ho hum.

Kompakt / KOMPAKT 158
[Peter Chambers]

April 25, 2007

Joel Mull - The End Has Begun EP

Stockholm vet. The a-side’s first two minutes make good use of the “alien piano” keyboard preset, horrorflick longtones shimmering over rolls of syncopated drum programming, felt more than heard. When the beat drops finallythis bewildering cluck that’s treated with just enough reverb that it hits the left side of the pan before the rightMull moves everything into pretty undeniable neu-trance terrain: arena-appropriate crescendos and plenty of growth/decay in the synths themselves. Still though I find myself rewinding back to the beginning just so I can hear the beat drop at minute two, which is saying something. On the flip, Mathew Jonson’s “Tiger Remix” has those pneumatic trainwhistle-type sounds that Superpitcher used in his underrated “Lick the Pipe,” but ambition gets the better of him. The track mixes everything from jungle-like rhythms, bar mitzvah scales and even kosmische synths that moan out like Moby Dick, often all at once, and never ends up popping.

Railyard Recordings / RYR007
[Nick Sylvester]

March 29, 2007

Jacek Sienkiewicz - Good Night & Good Luck

In comparison to his more introspective material on his own Recognition label, Jacek’s singles on Cocoon are usually more of a mainroom affair, and this one’s no exception. As good as “Six Feet Above” and “Double Secret Life” were, “Goodnight & Good Luck” sounds like a breakout release, straddling high-clarity minimal techno with a set of winding trance-esque melodies a la Orbital. “Good Luck” is the stunner: twelve minutes of pure sunrise techno, starting with high-pitched ping-ponging synth octaves, and adding in twinkling bells and warm drones half way in. “Good Night” is a bit more reminiscent of Donnacha Costello’s recent work, with crisp, dry bell sounds working an echoing lock-groove that eventually shows itself to be just as mesmerizing as its counterpart. Highly recommended.

Cocoon / COR0336
[Michael F. Gill]

March 20, 2007

Misstress Barbara Barcelona

It could be said that minimal is the continuation of techno by other means, at least in the case of labels like M_nus. For other camps, substitute trance for techno. For Border Community well, what was so wonderful about the label was that, initially at least, you didnt have to choose sides. As the label name promised, you could be a nomads lad, living in the lawless provinces where a bit of creative banditry could nab you a few hits against the stuffy village people below. Theres a double irony then, in Misstress Barbaras Barcelona arrival on the label. Barbara, formerly an exponent of hard as nails club-tech, has produced a tech-trance record that seems to be retreating back into Tranceland, with all of the implications that name gives.

If techno bores the shit out of a lot of people for its lack of melodic variation, the problem with Barcelona in its original version is that by focusing so much on the inter-relation of melodies, the mistress takes her eyes off the rhythmic ball, producing a track that sounds like three big wedges of melody thrust through each other, while a dull thud simply marks time in the background. Holdens tool mixes seem to be a tacit recognition of this, and overcompensatetheyre four minutes of constantly tweaked, prodded, torn out, and kicked drum patterns. Theres something interesting about the constantly mutating inter-relationships, but it sounds like Holdens managed to mic up the brain of some poor sap whose overdosed on caffeine. But then, the tool appellation is a get-out-of-jail free card on this tip, isnt it? Music thats not designed for listening hmmm.

Jamais moi sans toi sounds like a study piece of sortsas if Barbara was intentionally trying to mimic the labels previous releases. As when an attack dog bares its teeth gradually over five minutes, its difficult to stay scared, or even attentiveand likewise here too little takes too long to happen, and its an unexciting knock-off of Nathan Fakes sigh-trance when it does.

Border Community / 15BC
[Peter Chambers]

March 14, 2007

Moonbeam - Eclipse / Sunshine

Triple R’s got a spy in Moscow, or at least a summer house. Yet Moonbeam, his latest Russian import, are a perfect fit for Traum, delivering two luminous tech-house tracks with sweetly detached melodies. Like their countrymen SCSI-9, everything here has been polished until it shines, so even the pulsing minor-key melody of “Eclipse” ends up with a stronger sense of wonder than melancholy. “Sunshine” is where it’s at though, showing its potency through a lulling synth loop that is effectively hypnotic, no matter how many sprightly prog-house melodies they throw on top of it.

Traum / TRAUM V82
[Michael F Gill]

December 1, 2006

Dominik Eulberg - Bionik

Originally released as a limited edition, one-sided picture disc, the massive Bionik gets a second life on shop shelves and dancefloors worldwide with this standard release complete with a new Guy Gerber remix on the flip, thus ensuring that those lucky enough to find it the first time will just have to buy it again anyway. Even for the prolific and talented Eulberg, Bionik stands apart as a notch above most floor fodder, building from a stripped-down beginning to a Frankensteins Monster of a cut, featuring all the hallmarks of minimal, techno, and even some trance elements that somehow come to life and stomp around once the electricity is added. It shouldnt work, but it does, as the big breakdowns, chunky bass riff, call-and-response percussion, and swirling backdrops shift and shade each other to make a rumbling, rambling whole that deftly crosses new and old school lines. Gerbers Red Light Rmx is a bit more streamlined and modern sounding, taking a similar construction approach in building from the bottom up, but keeping things a bit more dark and menacing than the original, including lots of subtle, shuffling percussive snaps and shakes. Eulberg had a great 2006, but looking back, Bionik should be the tune that people remember, and now that its more widely available, I expect it will be.

Cocoon / COR 12 027
[Todd Hutlock]

November 17, 2006

zgr Can - On a White Day

Fuck me, for some reason I thought this was a Holger Czukay record. Instead it’s this Swedish guy practicing with his sweet new computer but on my time, shitting out three minimal trance cuts (i.e. short on ideas, zero build) of the same flimsy loops: a quote spooky whatever bells in the water riff, a faceless kick, and some stuttering percussion. A1 (”Whitest”) to A2 (”Whiter”) to B1 (”White”), Can changes up sub-genre dressing but keeps that ass bell loop, all to increasingly bad effect. The electro-housed A1 gets by because it sounds like a Bpitch demo, but A2 couldn’t even cut it on a Spectral comp, and B1 desperately wants to be acid-house but forgets the mindmelting squelch. Buy this record only if you have a comically large coffee mug and happen to need a coaster.

Precinct / PREC 014
[Nick Sylvester]

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