Electronic

Boards of Canada- “The Campfire Headphase” Review

20 years ago, Boards of Canada’s “Music Has the Right to Children” was released, promptly and justifiably being heralded as a watershed in what was homogenously termed “Electronic Music”. However, the inevitable puffy-eyed nostalgia flooding the album for its 20th anniversary runs the risk of beaching what is perhaps a greater work, 2005’s overlooked opus “The Campfire Headphase”. Lacking the transgressive innovation of “Music Has the Right to Children” only because of the shifting tides of popular music from 1998 to 2005, the more organic and less overtly electronic exterior of “The Campfire Headphase” discloses not a drought of creativity, but an abundance of it. Of all the duo’s releases, this is the album that most seamlessly and adroitly blends the earthly and the artificial; the woodland and the city; sacred pastoralism and profane urbanity. And isn’t that what Boards of Canada are all about?

A fair amount has already been written about the pair’s altered working practices on the album. “The Campfire Headphase” consists of fewer samples and digitally manipulated effects than their previous two full-length albums, instead incorporating the novelties of acoustic instrumentation. Indeed, it is the interplay of folksy finger-picking and glacial electronic futurism that define the album through the very difficulty of defining the album, providing it with a malleable identity that remains perpetually, tantalizingly in flux. This is captured in “Constants are Changing”, a hazy fever-dream of gently plucked guitar and swirling synths, the melody fluttering just out of reach.

The band’s new methods, beyond providing the album’s central intrigue, often yield astonishing results on a song-by-song basis. “Dayvan Cowboy” intercuts noise-rock fuzz, sparklingly reverberant guitar, splashy sampled drums and laconic lift-music keyboard into a surging, richly realized whole. The proto-vaporwave (if an album made in 2005 can be the “proto” precursor to a genre reliant on slowing down ‘80s songs) of “84 Pontiac Dream” drifts by with a slick, melancholy impersonality, culminating in a gorgeously wistful guitar epilogue, and “Chromakey Dreamcoat” spins a wobblingly askew riff into mordant, ghostly soundscapes.

By the time the flickering, underwater keyboard line of concluding track “Farewell Fire” has spooled off into darkness, “The Campfire Headphase” has established itself as a strikingly cohesive blend of the organic and the electronic, and the most coherently realised summation of its creators yet. The digitized naturalism of the album is both its central paradox and greatest strength, ironically drawing more attention for its virtual invisibility and seamlessness. An album equally suited to pastoralism and cyberpunk. A

CO

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2zKARkpDW4

Advertisements
Standard
Hip Hop, Jungle, R&B, rap, Reggae, Urban

Celebration of Life – Legends of UK Jungle, Drum & Bass and Dance come together on Charity Single

 

Celebration of Life, a collaboration between some of the UK’s premiere talents from the worlds of jungle, drum & bass, reggae and dance; including Demolition Man; Jr. Dangerous; Navigator; Tippa Irie; General Levy; Alaska MC and Cowboy Ranger, not to mention it being mixed by Liondub at his own New York studios.

The is in support of Demelza, a hospice which provides support and respite for the parents and families of terminally ill children with special needs. The project is inspired by a little boy called Jaden who is suffering with an incurable brain disease. Despite his prognosis, he celebrated his 11th birthday in August, against all his doctor’s expectations, which has further inspired the project to achieve even greater exposure for the cause.

Watch the documentary about the project Below:

https://youtu.be/fuXbDleb310

Catch the artists headlining Jungle Fever at Ministry of Sound in London on December 22nd, where they will also be performing a second track in support of the project, “Think Positive” (produced by FLeCK, and also featuring the talents of Sweetie Irie, Ragga Twins, Joseph Lalibela & Johnny Dolla)

 

Standard
Acoustic, Alternative, Electronic, experimental, Psychedelic, Punk, Rock

Johann Sebastian Punk ‘Phoney Music Entertainment’ Review

Anyone who’s been called “A bewildering lunatic” is probably a genius in my book, especially when you’re called a lunatic by Rolling Stone. Johann Sebastian Punk (great name) has just done a UK release for his new album ‘Phone Music Entertainment’ after bewildering audiences with it’s original release in his native Italy lets how it fairs to more developed (obviously) English Ears.

The album starts with a wash of synthesizers and trumpets, a clear sign of an artist who is striving for experimentation and to make something new. This sets the tone for album. By the time Johann’s voice comes in with some beautifully crunchy produced electronic drums, you know this is going to be no ordinary album.

‘Confession’ one of the singles taken from the album takes you on a slow dark journey through Johann’s mind, with cuts of wit (very characteristic of this strange, experimental punk) e.g ‘I don’t need a high graded school’. All this before reaching a beautifully pleasing crescendo.

My personal favourite ‘Manifest Destiny’ feels like a strange mixture between Radiohead, M85, Blur with Adam Ant on the vocals. Actual genius, enjoyable, creative, perfectly imperfect. Finishes the Album on a high. There’s something about Johann, he has a sound, if all falls into place he could be another David Bowie. Hes obviously a very talented writer and multi-instrumentalist, and an immensely interesting and slightly mad character.

Through experimentation, multiple instrumental experimentation, sampling and general madness Johann has created something rather magical. This is not everyone’s cup of tea and don’t get me wrong, Johann’s theatrical style is at danger of wearing thin, however the experimental instrumentation and sheer joy and charisma of how its done is what carries it through.

Listen to ‘Phoney Music Entertainment’ here.

Standard
Electronic

Mavis Victory Project- “Don’t Go Away” Review

Few bands would cite both the Arctic Monkeys and Schoolboy Q among their influences, but Mavis Victory Project are only tenuously a “band” in the traditional sense. Their sound is closer to dank, seamy electronica than the guitar rock that “band” invariably suggests, although sweetly and incongruously they are comprised of four brothers and a childhood friend. Their new single “Don’t Go Away” infuses Mavis Victory Project with a vague but unshakeable squalor, albeit one meshed with a slick, careerist zeal: the types who hang around unsavoury raves in sunglasses and install chewing gum machines to slow juddering jaws.

The band’s clearest analogues vocally are perhaps Wild Beasts and Nine Inch Nails in Michael Ransom’s lascivious, breathy purrs, and the purview of another of their influences, Kanye West, is visible in the “New Slaves”-esque descending riff that carries the verses. There is a little of Die Antwoord in both the grubby industrial decay that pervades the video—all skeletal warehouses and clandestine underworld cultism—and the malevolent abrasiveness of Mavis Victory Project’s sound, although they are still a good few miles from “I FINK U FREEKY”.

However, “Don’t Go Away” is nonetheless something of an impassively wintry single, whose lyrics feel like placeholders and whose music feels stonily impenetrable. Although its verses bristle with a skittish mischief, the track’s chorus settles into a plodding banality, which only really unlatches at the track’s end. “As the year draws to an end, I wonder ‘Will I ever see you again?’/It feels like I’ve lost my oldest friend” mumbles Ransom in perhaps the song’s singular moment of confession, before it curtly and teasingly ends. Whether they can progress beyond intrigue and implication remains to be seen. CO

B-

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IF8FE4E_J9E

Standard
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

B+

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

Standard
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

A

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

Standard
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

B

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

Standard