August 23, 2007

Pikaya - Cambrium

I recently rediscovered my CD copy of Gescom’s Minidisc. To those who are unfamiliar with the album, it’s comprised of eighty-something short tracks: rhythmic loops; spooky atmospheres; crunchbeats the building blocks of an Autechre album laid bare, and a view onto the unarranged organs of a functional set. It was originally designed to be played on shuffle with a minidisk player, which meant that the album never played the same way twice, producing thousands of combinations of mixes. iTunes has given this album a new lease on life, because not only does it randomise the tracks and mix them gaplessly, it can also fade them into each other, resulting in both amazing and awful mixes. The only problem is the arrhythmic flam that you get when one beat crosses another out of phase…but once Apple releases a version of iTunes that can beat match, it’s bye-bye DJ.

I’ve done a similar thing with my collection of Cadenza EPs, which I play in a similar fashion, leaving the 4.6 hours worth of material on at low volume in the background and letting them randomise and waft into each other. The open structures and aleatory nature of Cadenza’s tracks (avowedly so in the case of Digitaline) mean that the music seems to take pleasure in its own meandering. Needing no intervention, it scribbles and squiggles away the afternoon in its own way. It’s my very own automatic etch-a-sketch, and it draws monochrome flowers.

The playlist is evolving with every Cadenza release, and with the addition of this new Pikaya EP, it’s grown in dub and daub, adding ornamental flourishes and deep-thrown effects to the labels’ prototypical boom-click/plip-plop skeleton. Pikaya’s debut on Cadenza came with “Grne Raufaser” the b-side on the split they shared with Andomat 3000 and Jan’s more boisterous and successful “Entr’acte Music”. It was a track that always hinted at introducing a major theme, but never really delivered on this tease. Both “Fango” and “Jedi” offer the similar sense of imminent drama (which never quite materialises, it’s stuck teetering on the verge), and at high volumes they provide useful tension as foregrounding tracks to be mixed in before “Mr Big Hooks”. At low volumes (when the tracks return to being my living room wallpaper) this also works as part of the overall Cadenza strategy. This is not house so much as the ivy that clings to it.

Cadenza / CADENZA 17
[Peter Chambers]

April 24, 2007

Reverso 68 Especial


Reverso 68’s new single is somewhat of an anomaly: a disco burner with a rather refined sense of character. Rather than just focusing on one element and turning it up to 11, like an acid synth freak-out or intense barrages of drum programming, Pete Herbert and Phil Mison take each individual instrument and set it to “stun.” The result is an even-keeled, sleek, and shimmering slab of disco that slowly but surely set fire to the dance floor.

Whereas last year’s “Tokyo Disco” read like a groove-infused Kraftwerk, music for the distracted dancers of the future, “Especial” is much more happy to stick it out and debase with abandon. Combinations of popping bass, ricocheting synth lines, stabs of electric guitar, and celebratory chanting all mesh together nicely without over-doing it.

If the A-side is about the party, B-side “Take Me Back (To Yours)” is entirely concerned with the after-partyin the bedroomand everyone plays it cool. The drums and bass sit back and dig deliberately into the beat, the guitar stands in the corner and chucks along, and the darker synths throb underneath while the track shimmers in and out of consciousness. All the while you can hear the results, a female’s enthused affirmations echoing throughout, climaxing with the repeated mantra, “it feels good on your lips.” And as the last note reverberates into oblivion, theres a feeling that Reverso 68 have soundtracked one of the best nights out of the year so far.

Eskimo Recordings / 541416 501598
[Peter Lansky]

April 12, 2007

Vulva String Quartett - Cranberry Song

Vulva String Quartett is actually just one man, with nary a bowed instrument in sight. Hanno Leichtmann, the Austrian behind the moniker, is a man whose musical proclivities extend in several directions between jazz, house, and electronica. Hes released albums for Karaoke Kalk (as himself) and City Centre Offices (as Static) as well as recording EPs with Compost-affiliated sweet-toned honey Clara Hill.

But this EP shows the multi-directional artist exploring the beautones of strands between and beyond Farben, AM/PM, Betreib, and the like. Cranberry Song nods along with the swinging insistence of several malfunctioning layers of droning loops that give way to a funky, yapping synth line. Roundabout harks back to the some-called Immer house sound of the turn of the millennium, using a string loop as a neatly textured drone which moves the track into proximities with early Lawrence and the deep-blue-house excursions of Combination records labelmate Norken. But, to me at least, the pick of the bunch is Cloudseeding, which has something of the shy anthem quality to it, underwritten by an indie-tronic (a la Dntel) sensibility guaranteed by the placement of electro-acoustic instrument samples and a guitar line into the mix. Neat.

Combination / CORE 051-1
[Peter Chambers]

January 19, 2007

Jacek Sienkiewicz & Marek Raczkowski - Warsaw for Beginners

Jacek Sienkiewicz has, slowly but surely, been nailing the craft. Recent releases on his label Recognition have reached sublime heights of mean, moody, and magnificent techno, full of interlocking parts, sudden bad moods and noodling string pluck melodies capable of tugging even tautly tuned heartstrings. Late 2005s Double Secret Life found its way onto both Tobi Neumanns fantastic Fliederlieder mix and Lawrences Groove compilation as the crescendo selection, and with good cause.

Given the incredible polish (ahem) that Sienkiewicz has managed to achieve of late, its odd that he would choose to release Warsaw for Beginners (co-produced with Marek Raczkowski). Why weird? Simply because, despite a wealth of inventive ideas and odd combinations of almost Guru Josh piano lines, boisterous digitechno rhythms, and delicate au Harem textures, this feels like a strange sketch, a study for a far greater and more interesting EP that wasnt quite realized. I keep waiting in vain for it to happenmaybe this music needs new ears that are still growing. Give me time on that one, but for the moment, this is an eccentric, promising cacophony that doesnt quite hit the spot.

Recognition / r-epo019
[Peter Chambers]

December 1, 2006

Ost & Kjex - How Not to Be a Biscuit

The silly titles of this Crosstown Rebels release conceal one of the finest tech-house records to be let out the gate this year. Starting slowly and with some trepidation, the opener “How Not to be a Biscuit” gradually escalates in its combination of tweak-tech and video game sounds to broker a stunning compromise between Booka Shade-type depth and Perlon-esque hallucinations. By midpoint one is raving hard on the back of several crosscut waves piled atop each other, given gravity by the dense landscape of sounds both warm and fearful. “Cottage Cheese in Cantonese” is an equally heavily-populated but much more atmospheric number, with plenty of “oriental” sound effects. While it might have become tawdry exotica in lesser hands, Ost & Kjex sculpt with a real reverence for pure sound, resulting in excellent soundtrack music paired with a propulsive grace. “Zwei Jahre Aus Kloh” is a strange reshuffling of the two cuts together: it starts abruptly with the heavy electro of the title track before falling apart beautifully. Highly recommended.

Crosstown Rebels / CRM 032
[Mallory ODonnell]

October 13, 2006

Tetine - A Historia De Garcia

If there’s one thing London based Soul Jazz Records knows, it’s how to keep their collective fingers in a multiplicity of pies. Though best known for insanely high-quality compilations of classic and obscure reggae, funk, jazz, and soul, over the past few years they’ve been quietly building a stable of solid artists of their ownthe great Matt Edwards project Rekid, awesome electro from Bell, and afro-house from Osunslade are just a few of the acts that have seen release. Tetine are a Sao Paolo-based duo that were instrumental in both the recent Mr. Bongo Funk Carioca compilation and the outstanding Brasilian post-punk collection The Sexual Life of the Savages. “A Historia De Garca” draws more on the latter sound than the former, with a slight, almost menacing down-tempo groove that cuts swathes of unease before breaking into a clean 80’s DX-7 synth lead that evokes the mid-period sound of Cabaret Voltaire. Though the gurgling bassline is cold Northern minimalism at its finest, the drums are a pure shot of baile funk. A startling combination of influences and ideas that I’m still working out. Definitely one to watch.

Soul Jazz / SJR 150-12
[Mallory ODonnell]

September 22, 2006

Andi Teichmann - Refaded

Berlins Festplatten are back with a remix 12 inch for Andi Teichmanns Fades CD, which doubles as one of the few exercises in recent memory that makes clinical sterility sound enticing. While none of the these three remixes [plus a skip-worthy 20 second collage called Loops] are club material, there is something a bit jarring and claustrophobic about layering mellifluous Joe Pernice-styled vocals over such prickly, quantized, and whitewashed productions. With ultra-dry toms and chiseled minimal acid-lines, Hannes Teichmanns remix of They Dont Care is like an anemic version of Trentemoller, while Ukraines Dubmastas turn in a grim, mostly beatless mix that shows off only a few ugly glitches in its freshly shined exterior. When the disjointed kick drum comes in during the latter, it could pass as an unlikely combination of The Notwist jamming with the dubstep of Burial. Ada comes up with the biggest winner here, nailing the trademark Festplatten sound of synthesized electric guitar (used so well on practically every record by Gebr. Teichmann) while adding just the slightest bit of her own squelchy basslines and lush organ pads. Everything here might be carved a bit too lucid and upfront to really sink your teeth into, but just like excessive plastic surgery and botox, it still demands a curious kind of rubbernecking attention.

Festplatten / FEST 33
[Michael F. Gill]

April 10, 2006

Francisco - Ultimo


Francisco has chosen wisely here. With his album due for release in the States, he’s pulled one of the strongest tracks from the second (and far superior) side of his LP. While at first the album seemed a bit generic to me, it’s proven a grower, especially once one gets to the later tracks. “Ultimo” is one of the bestan update on the timeless combination of Kraftwerkian synth atop a chugging Trax Records groove. To some Italo-House connotes pop-Diva warbling and shitty beach parties, but “Ultimo” is what plays in my headcomplexity and potency walking hand in hand. Marco Passarani shows up for remix duties and brings the slap-bass, tweaking the sounds but leaving the architecture intact. He makes it all a bit fuzzier and wiggier, as though you were hearing the original after getting something slipped in your drink.

Nature / 2132
[Mallory ODonnell]