World of the Waking State
TBR: September 22nd 2017
Psybient rhythms roll out the album with a sultry and interesting first track, full of sway and movable parts that sleek along a breezy melody. World of the Waking State is the third release by DJ and Producer Steffi, and it makes a statement in flow and direction immediately. Relaxing tones draw themselves over deep and fascinating beats, effects into ambience and curious sound twists gently peak and trough like waves, while the dynamics of the album remains in the comfort zone.
An element of evening interlaces the sounds, echoic and reverberated tones swirl like dancing birds in a thickly wooded sky, the leafs jostling each other in the passing of cooler air. There's no intense drive to infringe on the atmosphere, no pushy sequence of notes or throbbing drum to force us to move, just a pleasant and slowly moving journey in music.
Track 3 brings in a touch of the industrial to fill the sound out a little, however the balance is brought across with a playful and non-flamboyant frill of notation. Relentless in quality and a little crispier at the edges, "All Living Things" pricks the ears a little after a sit down element of the release. A familiar feel works its way through the following number, low and high mix together with a fluffy beat cycling around a common centre. Hazy sensations curdle and swirl as the music rests unusually on the listener.
There's a lot going on with World of the Waking State, Steffi has piled layer after layer of thought out and emotive phrasing which colours the contours of this album in many enthralling ways. It is a chill out album, and has danceable moments too. It puts me in a Moby frame of mind, and it wouldn't surprise me if some of the underground work of this artist has been an influence.
TBR September 17
Smooth but experimental introductory phrases give an allure of mystery. It is as if this record has been started after it was meant to, but this is not the case. A crisp cymbal riff edges over the side of the mix as a clapping and bass drum combo underscore the piece. A sweet vocal expression tops the track with a selection of emotive hollers. Addictive tapped drum beats add a layer of cream to the light but well rounded mix.
Being a programmer from Ableton, Sieren clearly knows a thing or two about this platform, and the general job of a sound engineer. This expertise has been clearly stamped on Ascension EP in the way that it flows wonderfully in inventive but also demonstrably pleasant ways. As the record progresses, the tone of the music shifts with each track.
There is a heaviness to the EP which mellows out over the course of each number. What starts out as a bassy and beat driven frolic into sound realms made from overlapping rhythms and samples, becomes smooth and drone like pulses of string and synth. A calming down quality can be given to the progression, vocals bring layers of feeling that clasp like holding hands over a variation of compositions, ranging from technical and industrial to the dreamy and tranquil.
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Contours of the Soul EP
TBR September 17
The bumper single release opens with a catchy metallic and tubular rhythm which immediately invites dancing. Depending on how loud it's being played, the level of dancing induced will vary. For me, a head bopping flowed naturally. I did have visions of a well stocked dancefloor with the same music pounding from the speakers to great effect. After the initial opening, treble sections overlap the already driving pace which serve up a doubling of danceworthiness, forming the blood and bones of this record. From there on in, the rhythms and beats are melded and merged, forming regular and predictable pace.
The futuristic yet tribal flavour of the first track "Textures of Thoughts" is deep and interesting. The odd little fills that make up the background give a layer of exploration which fills the listening experience well, if this were a tablet, it would be easy to swallow but also not too small. Perhaps during the two year break from releasing anything, SP-X has been thinking deeply and this track mirrors the experience.
"Process Control" opens with a galloping drum beat of which a melodic flurry of notation runs alongside, as if two legs are keeping up with four. It builds slowly but the pressure soon finds a new level of intensity that brings the music into a new state of energy. The progression of synths and rhythm smoothly runs its fingers along the dedicated and relentless beat which is threaded through the whole piece in one consistent line. Hypnotic additions couple with this delivery to create a trance inducing track that continues to carry the theme of dance and movement.
The last two tracks form a duo, the latter being a remix of the other. This gives us an extended rendition of the soul within this final track, a more industrial and dark theme is called upon to end this release. Eerie blips and sound saws buzz in high pitches over dirty bass and pulsing drones. A well crafted mix of tracks, each with its own distinct taste but all continuing the record's energy in interesting and progressive ways. Contours of the Soul is destined for the dancefloor, and it ought to do pretty well.
Catch Process Control on Soundcloud
Where Ambient Lives
Rhythmic white noise marks the entrance of the album, quickly fading into a muffled pulsing which almost sounds in time. This ambient album has a personality, and within moments its clear that we're in for something interesting. As the distant sound of strangeness evolves, more tones are added gracefully and moderately, granting a slow but genuine build into a fascinating mixture. A slightly different pitch begins to whistle over the amalgamation and it symbols the pace. We're being asked to pay attention, for the devil in these details is where the art is.
Otherwise known as Frans de Waard, Quay is the first album released under this new guise, Quest. Track one builds like an old fashioned steam engine, as the mighty weight of the machine is lunged forward, the momentum takes a long time to gather but as it does, when it does, there's a sudden flush of energy. In this case, the music builds up like a bath, and nothing much happens until it begins to over-flow. The surge of the moving water dragging more over the side.
The foundation of sound and rhythm can be found in all music but with Quay the architecture is unique and inspiring. Space-age soundscapes drift along in dreamy bubbles of well crafted sonic experience, giving the mind many angles and conceptual sensations to absorb and muse upon. Experimenting with sound and what it sounds like when played in various ways doesn't always make good music. I get the feeling that this album consisted of much more work, which was shaken down and tampered with to form what we have today. It was worth the wait, and the effort, as the cream of the sessions has given us a deep and intriguing work of musical art.
The album is out now from Bandcamp
Are You Anywhere?
TBR September 17
Cool and breezy melodics open the album immediately with a warming sensation that gives an allure of summer, although to be played any time of year, sunshine in a CD box cannot go amiss. With the jazzy elements running heavy in the composition, sonics pulled straight from schmooze music give a quality of nostalgic prancing through pleasant streets lined with well dressed good looking people. Flamingos come to mind as the rhythm pushes to and fro in a lapping motion not dissimilar to a gentle wind on a large body of water.
As the album moves on, the similarity between each track can be a bit disappointing, unless it hits the spot. It tries as hard as it can to really push the point home, and if you like the funky feels then it's extremely good, for those who don't, the novelty factor sees it through quite nicely. Casio keyboard reminiscent sections drag us into the 80s and remind us how it felt to wear blue suits and drink dayglow beverages. I think many of us still do those things. They'll be who this album is aiming for.
I like it, I particularly like the retro synths, which seem to grow even more nostalgic as the album progresses. The thickness of the spread increases, that droning phat keyboard just gets more inclusive and even more heavy in the mix. Almost as if we've gone back in time, it's amazing that this album has been produced in the modern era. Perhaps that is the mastery at work, where with modern gear and all the know-how of a technical studio, finding the space to produce something from another time would be quite a challenge.
Listen to, preorder, and buy the album on Bandcamp
TBR October 17
Slightly tone muted rhythms merge with high impact synths to give an all round experience of musical strangeness, the experimental and relaxing sounds of Irregular Passion make an interesting listen. As the music progresses, the pace does sit up and there are moments of dance worthy sections, but I get the feel this album was made to listen to, absorb, and experience. It molds a perfect setting for swaying from side to side, perhaps with a pint in the hand or an almost shouted conversation with your friend's good looking acquaintance.
The energy is turned up gradually as each track passes by, and without really noticing it, what began as a slow crawler, muddy hums and tuned down loops have become full on thriving phrases. The language of the album is of progress and rhythm, bashing beats cascade into the mix in the ideal places, and the repeating but evolving looped elements give a rocky shore for the waves of motion to crash against.
A creepy and mysterious undergathering causes the music to tilt slightly on one side, jutting into our experience at odd angles and unusual tangents, delivering an interesting and meaty array of sounds and beats. Smooth and cool melodics glisten like morning dew over rocky paths set in by quick paced but mellow rhythms. Frothing bass and wavering trebles mix in the middle alongside a whole palette of sonic ingenuity.
As yet unavailable, follow Francois X on Soundcloud.
TBR: October 27th
A manic build-up in the first opening moments sets a scene for abstraction and playtime but as the sound mellows out into its following minutes, the calm takes an edge off the seat and rounds the armrests a slight amount, allowing us to get comfy with a cool and adequately placed vocal, mixed in with some creamy swirls and bell like ambience.
High energy moments crescendo like the cupping of fast moving waves, over their own weight and velocity, into another surge of forward motion propelled by something new from behind. Chloe is an electronic music veteran, with a twenty year career in the scene, this once upon a time DJette has designed a self fuelled legacy of talent and continual evolution with the technology at hand. A ghostly voiceover vocal delivers perhaps a steadiness to the constant movement within the driving force of electronic progression. We can hear a style within a style if one listens hard enough, and Chloe has this duality down extremely well.
The album is marketed as a list of stepping stones across the consciousness of the artist, and the progression surely makes sense. A growing up takes place alongside a distinct story telling in the mode of evolving timbre and flow. Graceful sections line up next to manic flurries and feedback dominated pushes into the realms of noise, only to drift away into the haunting escapism given by odd melodies and dainty tweaks to the mixing, that give everything much more depth.
TBR October 17.
Calling on archive and vintage material from previous work, Special Request has utilised modern know-how and techniques to build something truly indulgent and nicely layered. The sound-a-like to most electro artists' early work to amateur sounds can be detected but the mastering and mix delivery is so well attuned that no-one in a bedroom could do this, unless they happen to be a professional of course. It is all done on computers., after-all. One would like to think that Special Request works in more appropriate surroundings, a bar perhaps, or a nice beach somewhere. Who knows?
Returning with a vintage vibe has been a gamble, as electronic music needs to be cutting edge to slice the proverbial cake, using old hat sounding licks and fills was risky. However, there's a lot to be said for those who love to take it back a few years and remember how cool something used to be. And the hell why not ? It's all in the mind anyway and if it was cool then, it's cool now with the right attitude. Luckily we're given all the trimmings of a pro mixing job, the cutting and pasting has truly made a meal out of the old raw ingredients, one that's nutritious and worthy of a few healthy nods - in the right places of course.
The digital album is available to listen to, pre-order and buy now.
Rowan Blair Colver for the Homunculus Media Group
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