Electronic, Techno

nej!las- “Washout” Review

As gleefully improbable origin stories go, that of nej!las takes some beating. The founder of Global Health Conscious, an international charity that has raised some $2.5 million for UN refugee camps across the Middle East, she is now venturing into floorboard-rattling techno because why not, really. The paradoxically named “Washout” is the prow of her upcoming E.P., a bloodied slab of merciless, mirthless intensity reminiscent of the brutish electro of Trent Reznor’s soundtrack for “The Social Network”.

For all its brutalist repetition, “Washout” is surprisingly flighty in places, fading in and out between tangling, snaking keyboard riffs. As if teasing the listener, the relentless thud of the bass drum that serves as the track’s backbone occasionally slides out of sync between torrents of clicking hi-hats. The heavily distorted keyboards and restless percussion ferment an almost tribal, Teutonic pugilism but the track is still able to conjure a distinctive sense of space—the martial clatter of Woodkid or the soporific haze of Dashevsky compacted into spidery, fingernail-tapping claustrophobia.

Flying Lotus, one of nej!las’ primary influences, is clearly audible in “Washout”. Particularly, the end in which the track’s rhythmic digressions finally coagulate into a clattering, relentless chunter, like pebbles fountaining onto a tin roof, bears a striking resemblance to Flying Lotus’ “Do the Astral Plane”. However, the wired violence of nej!las is largely absent in his music, and is perhaps her USP.  CO


Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/nejlasproducing/washout

Dance, Electronic

Aphex Twin- “Selected Ambient Works 85-92” Review

Although it has been largely swamped in the general imagination by his far more interesting reputation as a reclusive, sardonic intransigent, there was a brief period when Aphex Twin’s murky trajectory intersected with the pop mainstream. He’s there, both visibly uneasy and wryly remote, in an ill-fated MTV interview from 1996. When quizzed about where he gets his inspiration from, he remarks that in the future he wants to “go away and be on my own again like I was growing up”. Thus, even this most half-hearted and fleeting of dalliances with fame, through the deliberately abrasive singles “Come to Daddy” and “Windowlicker”, was abruptly curtailed. Aphex Twin retreated into myth, where he has largely remained since.

“Selected Ambient Works 85-92”, now 25 years old, is probably the centrepiece of his cult, as well as a host of celebrity endorsements that he generally viewed with rueful distain. Pedestalized by the likes of Radiohead (who, typically, he wrote off as “really obvious and cheesy”), Björk and Mogwai, his complete antipathy towards stardom has not stopped a rabid fanbase from coalescing around him. Particularly, “Selected Ambient Works 85-92” gradually emerged as a keystone of the pompously named IDM (Intelligent Dance Music), which he also disparaged: “It’s basically saying ‘this is intelligent and everything else is stupid’”.

Indeed, “Selected Ambient Works 85-92”, in a classic act of Aphex subterfuge, isn’t really an ambient album, also providing a blueprint for modern electronic music and dance. Dreamy opener “Xtal” interlaces submersible keyboard chords, insistent off-beat hi-hats and murmured vocal samples, forming an alluring fusion of wistful ambience and mechanistic dance: a lethargic brother of the glitzy punch of acid house. “Green Calx” strays further, into squelching synth lines and impassively clinical beats. While remaining many miles from saccharine emotionalism, the album conjures up some strikingly emotive music from digital, inhuman elements—the choppy, percussive futurism of “Heliosphan” rifles through mossy chords and clattering junglist rhythms with barely a pause for breath.

Perhaps the defining feature of “Selected Ambient Works 85-92” is its vast influence. It’s difficult to imagine a Tycho, a Jon Hopkins or a Skrillex without Aphex Twin, and his increasingly eccentric sequels, such as 2001’s slipshod, sprawling “Drukqs”, revealed an idiosyncratic talent further honing his unusual aesthetic.  However, “Selected Ambient Works 85-92” is the windowsill from which these gnarled growths sprouted and remains to many the definitive Aphex Twin album. His playful contrarianism was encapsulated in an inevitably rare interview—ironically, in perhaps the only sincere moment of an otherwise brusque conversation, he interjected “I don’t like giving interviews. I don’t like disclosing too much.” By offering few public explanations for his work, he encourages it to be judged devoid of context, and this silence ultimately becomes its own context: his mystique deepens by the year. CO


Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0q1gCsZykg

Electronic, Singer-songwriter

Voldo Blanka- “Go Your Way” Review

Voldo Blanka is a musical puzzlebox. A musician with experience of over a dozen instruments, interestingly it was the mechanistic washes of sound of electronica that attracted him rather than the squalling muso noodlings of modern jazz or metal. His presentation is restricted to a handful of monochrome photo shoots of him archly peering into the middle distance, and he is absent from the “Go Your Way” video, delegating visual intrigue a troupe of plain-clothes dancers and the decaying underpasses of Los Angeles. Rather than avidly marketing himself, his work is a process of withdrawal and retraction from the public eye.

This is also reflected in his music, which strikes an uneasy balance of melancholic emotion and glacial detachment, exemplified literally in the robotic vocoder vocals that underlay his own.  “Go Your Way” is a surprisingly coherent hybrid of various styles: Philip Glass-esque piano arpeggios, glints of post-rock outfits like Hammock (particularly their song “Tonight We Burn Like Stars That Never Die”) and Explosions in the Sky, clicking percussion reminiscent of Björk’s “Vulnicura” and those synthesised vocals which evoke modern hip-hop and R&B. This impersonal and clinical genre cherry-picking dryly underlays the song’s wistful positivity—“today’s the day”, “you’re on your way up”—as does the grand, shoegaze-influenced production.

If the “Go Your Way” has flaws, they are primarily derived from its anonymity. Voldo Blanka is playing one-handed, afraid to fully commit, and thus the air of stately detachment which pervades “Go Your Way” punctures genuine emotional involvement. However, it is an intriguing introduction to a new artist with a distinctive sound and compelling aesthetic. CO


Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16ddIO5u4BQ

Alternative, Electronic, Hip Hop

Album of the week: ‘Rain’ by M3staken


This week we’ve got something a little out there for you: If you like your hip-hop then it’s one for you, but if you like something that gives a challenging listen, then wrap your ears round this one too!

Hailing from South Carolina, young producer, M3staken (M3) creates a unique blend of hip-hop with jarring electronic beats, making for a complex, yet intriguing listening experience.

‘Rain’ is his latest, and arguably the best of his ‘trilogy’, which also began with ‘Apex’ and continued on with ‘Water Colors’.

There’s a real dark feel to M3’s work, but also a compositional quality that poses the question: are artist like M3 the Mozarts of the modern day? Of course, his music is a million miles away from Mozart’s, but he has been know to dabble with blending classical piano with his beats.

Listen to ‘Rain’ here on bandcamp:



Check out more on M3staken here:





Electronic, Synth-Pop

Vispa: ‘Cosmic Force’

Love electronic music? Love the 80s? Love electronic music from the 80s? Yes? Then we have the perfect track for you!

This is ‘Cosmic Force’ from Iranian artist Vispa who has used the skills he’s learnt as a producer and keyboardist to create a super-retro sound that you could only hear if you went back a few decades in a time machine! Throwback lovers get your get teeth stuck into this one!