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High Life
High Life
Price: 10.35

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't believe the Hyde, 30 Jun 2014
This review is from: High Life (Audio CD)
Firstly, I greatly prefer this over the previous Eno-Hyde collaborative album 'Someday World'.

The main problem (and also its saving grace) with this album is that nearly every single track ends better than it starts. I suppose that is kind of a good thing in that it shows development and progress through the song, and also means by the time the end comes you want the track to just keep going and expanding further, which obviously can't happen. Instead, after the build up and crescendo you enter again into a ponderous intro, the tepid first half of the next track, until things begin to boil up into the emotional climaxes. 'Lilac' being the most exemplary of this with the first 5 minutes plodding along with quite uninspired vocals (I don't particularly like Hyde's vocal delivery at the best of times and Eno tends to make the best of what he's got), then suddenly the guitar lines build up on top each other, the synth melodies bubble up and surface, the vocals rising in unison providing the finality the track warrants. This could just as easily describe the other stand out tracks 'Return' and 'Time to Waste It'. 'DBF' is an interesting track that sounds incredibly similar to something I've heard before (possibly a Captain Beefheart track or something from Miles Davis mid-70's output but I can't quite recollect exactly).The last track 'Cells & Bells' doesn't follow this pattern and merely meanders throughout in the more usual modern day Eno way, and 'Moulded Life' simply doesn't pique my interest at all, sounding like Wilko Johnson playing over an old NIN track.

So if you've just listened to the 30 second samples and aren't feeling it, try listening to the whole tracks as they really do improve across their duration. Overall, though, it's decent enough but both artists have done much better work in the past, and this isn't going to pull up any trees. Maybe I'm being hyper-critical based purely on each artist's (mainly 70s/80s Eno) previous work, but there doesn't seem any cohesion to the album, no underlying theme or concept tying the tracks together, it just seems a set of tracks that have come about after spending enough time in the studio together bouncing ideas around without any clear goal in mind. This was probably to be expected from a release so soon after 'Someday World' but I thought maybe they'd used up all the middle-of-the-road songs on the first LP and would put out something more esoteric or forward-thinking, which it fulfils but to a much lesser extent than I would have liked.

Also, I'm far more of an Eno fan than a Hyde fan, so I'd be interested to know if any big Hyde/Underworld nuts get more out of these collaborations than I do.

Oh, and the artwork is quite nice too.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 8, 2014 12:56 PM BST

Reality Testing
Reality Testing
Price: 9.82

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sumptuous, spacey, synthetic sonics, 16 Jun 2014
This review is from: Reality Testing (Audio CD)
Very nice album. Possibly not as immediately ear-catching as Galaxy Garden (nor is the artwork as eye-catching) but still a real aural treat.

Most of the early 90's rave/hardcore/Sega Megadrive influences of Galaxy Garden have vanished (or at least are heavily muted) apart from the previously released 'Airglow Fires', moments like the piano chords on 'Aurora Northern Quarter' and a few other, more discrete references, instead replaced by a much mellower, soulful hip hop/RnB/G-funk vibe across the record, closer in fact to his pre-Emerald fantasy Tracks output (only much more polished and idiosyncratic). The synthwork is still as lush as any Lone release with many of the same timbres and effects that appear across all of his output, but the context within which he uses them means things don't sound as glossy or neon as before. Still very rich and full sounding though and the more chilled out tracks mean you can feel truly immersed in the oscillations, which at times are very reminiscent of Boards of Canada. The twinkling arpeggios, glissandoing leads and cosy, liquid pads all create a really warm, comfortable atmosphere. If GG was like a being out in the blistering tropical sun, then RT is like curling up in front of the fireplace. This isn't to say there aren't any hooks or melodies because they are plenty there, in fact it's bursting with memorable riffs and synth lines (the flute riff on '2 is 8' is particularly catchy). So basically, it's stylistically and formally different to previous Lone material but timbrally, texturally, melodically, harmonically, and the overall aesthetics are clearly representative of the Lone moniker.

I'd like to make comparisons between someone who Lone has collaborated with in the past. The difference between Machinedrum's Room(s) and Vapor City are somewhat parallel to Galaxy Garden and Reality Testing. In both cases the earlier LP sounds more fresh and vibrant, whilst the later one smoothes things out, creating a dreamy, floaty album.

Whilst I'm not quite sure it's the best work Lone has produced, it is still a really top class album and will no doubt be one of my favourites of 2014 come the end of the year (at moment it's easily the best LP I've heard this year, comfortably surpassing other great records from Millie & Andrea, Fatima al Qadiri, Todd Terje, Mark McGuire, Martyn and Jokers of the Scene).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 20, 2014 6:50 PM BST

It's Album Time
It's Album Time
Price: 9.99

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funky & Fun, 7 April 2014
This review is from: It's Album Time (Audio CD)
After releasing a series of dance floor dominating singles over the past few years, Todd Terje tries his hand at the long playing format, and the results are pretty successful. Whilst avoiding the traps and pitfalls of just producing a mere collection of singles, or worse still, padding out the hits with similar but less inspired filler, Terje does a Daft Punk and delves into dance musics 70's roots with a selection of retro tracks that just about evade the 'derivative' label.

As you'd expect there is a heavy disco influence (in the more European, heavily electronic Giorgio Moroder/Patrick Cowley/Koto vein rather than the live band, syncopated Nile Rodgers style), but on top of that there's tracks that are pure Herbie Hancock style jazz funk, spaced out lounge/easy listening reminiscent of Herb Alpert or Henry Mancini, some esoteric stuff that sounds like it could have been included in the Katamari Damacy soundtrack, like lost gems from the golden age of library music.

However, all this retro referencing and nods to musical influences is all well and good but the main thing here is that this record is just fun. It's good lighthearted catchy pop music and upbeat dance music. The only real exception is the the Robert Palmer cover with Bryan Ferry's vocals which is like an emotive centre amid all the campy spacesynth and Eurodisco. There are even a couple of mini song suites which does sound quite proggy on paper, but Terje completely sidesteps the chin stroking in favour of foot tapping. Plus the album closes with 'Inspector Norse', which is nice.

The album definitely isn't going to win any awards for innovation, with most of it sounding like it was streamed directly from the 70's and 80's, but it's an excellent soundtrack to the summer months, and compared to some other recent big name dance producers album efforts (say, Tensnake) it is pure class.

Chorus [VINYL]
Chorus [VINYL]
Price: 12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Verse, 27 Feb 2014
This review is from: Chorus [VINYL] (Vinyl)
Title track is nice. Channels 0PN and Paul Lansky into a more dance-y framework, but not resembling any kind of established dance music genre (techno, house etc). However, I have heard it slotted into a mix and it worked quite well sandwiched inbetween I:Cube and Jam City.. Not great but definitely the stronger of the two tracks here. Post-modern without reaching into ironic/ kitsch territory.

'Solo Voice' is philosophically more in line with the academic modernism of Babbitt or Stockhausen, although using more minimalist Reich-ian techniques. Quite a basic pointillistic exercise in vocal loops but the use of various effects like panning and spatialisation help add interest.

Overall an okay-ish EP but if Herndon can develop the style employed on 'Chorus', her next LP could surprise me. Less intellectual squareness, more corporeal roundness please.

Hardcore Traxx: Dance Mania Records 1986-1995
Hardcore Traxx: Dance Mania Records 1986-1995
Price: 10.81

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic house and house classics, 11 Feb 2014
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A compilation of two halves. The first being classic Chicago house a la Trax and DJ International. The second being a collection of ghetto house classics.

Knowing Dance Mania more for its booty shaking ghetto sound, if anything I was more impressed with some of the tracks in that classic early house vein. Both the Da Posse ft. Martell tracks are absolute quality smooth house with nice jazzy piano. Equally both the Vincent Floyd tracks are excellent, the first being reminiscent of Larry Heard, the second closer to Derrick May. The Rhythm II Rhythm track is probably the highlight of the whole comp for me. The electric piano chords, those choral swells, the high pitched interconnecting synth bleeps, it all works so well. A couple of more jacking, techno-ier tracks sandwich the lovely deep house track by Strong Souls, aptly named 'Twinkles'. Both the Victor Romeo tracks are great also, be it the soulful vocal track of 'Love Will Find a Way' or the funkier, organ led 'Ride the Ride Rhythm'. Funnily enough my least favourite tracks are the two most famous. Maybe it's down to overexposure, but Hercules's (Marshall Jefferson) '7 Ways' and 'House Nation' seem to drag on forever over their 7-8 mins.

So overall first half impressions exceeded expectations. There is some very nice classic first wave house here. Now onto the half I most fancied beforehand.

Firstly, the names are include many legendary in the ghetto house/ghettotech/juke scenes: DJ Deeon, DJ Funk, Jammin' Gerald, Robert Armani and Paul Johnson is pretty big name in house in general. Whether these are their best work for Dance Mania is arguable but tracks like 'Feel My M.F. Bass', 'Hit it from the Back' and 'Work Out' are stone cold classics and both DJ Deeon's and DJ Funk's tracks are pretty much exemplary examples of that early ghetto sound. It's stripped back, bare boned music to dance to. It is pure club music to move your body to, so listening to it in its unmixed long form kind of deflates its efficacy. The tracks over 4.5 or 5 mins long can wear thin as in a ghetto mix you'd often only hear 2 or 3 mins tops before the next track kicks in, especially considering how basic and minimal some of these cuts are. In this context, it feels unnatural, a bit like placing street art or graffiti into the pristine blanched walls of an art gallery. However, there are some curveballs here. The 303 squelch on Deeon's 'Hypnosis', the Billie Jean bass on the hip hoppy 'Ghetto Shout Out', and the standout 'Toxic Waste' by Tim Harper, which is closer to chilled out techno than anything on here. Also, like any good ghetto, it includes enough of the genres lyrical keywords to fill the vulgarity/misogyny quota but it isn't as filled with lewd references as some of the slightly later stuff seems to be.

Finally, I'll add a lot of this sounds distinctly amateurish compared to modern in-the-box produced dance music (even the current underground Chicago stuff) but I think that's part of the charm. The fact that much of this was made on borrowed Rolands, in bedrooms, in like 5 hours, just adds to it's nostalgic value.

It's not a definitive compilation by any means but it gives good representation of Dance Mania's past output and is a great tool for people to learn about the history of their favourite music.

Along The Way
Along The Way
Price: 9.65

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If it ain't broke..., 10 Feb 2014
This review is from: Along The Way (Audio CD)
On his latest album Mark McGuire ploughs roughly the same furrow he has done with all his solo outings, which is basically polishing and refining the sound employed in Emeralds into a more easily palatable and clearly emotional tack. Maybe this is a bit more cinematic in style and, although his guitar work is still key, it doesn't dominate as much as previous releases, with some lovely synth work and nice piano and vocal augmentation. The whole album flows smoothly, no major dips, but the powerhouse 12-minute 'The Instinct" is the highest peak among the records numerous build-up-climax-release trajectories. There is nothing really original present here, its simply well crafted electronica, slightly ambient with some tasteful (possibly too tasteful to the point of sobriety) new age leanings, which seems to be en vogue in this post-hypnagogic/vaporwave age (which means instead of 70's era Tangerine Dream imitators we get 80's era imitations of TD imitators). This album always avoids sounding retro though, whilst still belonging to the heritage of the progressive electronic scene (not to the extent of Steve Hauschildt's solo work mind) and somehow having a nostalgic-like emotional quality to it.

I've seen Mark McGuire compared to Manuel Gottsching before but I prefer to draw parallels with that other great Krautrock guitarist Michael Rother. When Rother left Neu he sanded all the rough edges away from his sound and created these absolute pearls of albums filled with incredibly simple, almost naive, melody based tracks which just charge your soul. Whilst I don't think Mark McGuire has quite reached that same level of transcendental candour, he shows clear intent of not being afraid to be described as trite or schmaltzy in pursuit of a frank openness to his music. Moreover, both their music shares an inherent warmth.

If you like Mark McGuire or Emeralds previous releases then I can see no reason why you would't like this either. This does nothing new or clever, its just a nice 60 odd minutes of music, which sometimes is all you need.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 14, 2014 1:12 PM GMT

Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 11.08

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming, 27 Jan 2014
This review is from: Ghettoville (Audio CD)
Before I tackle the music I've got to mention the title: 'Ghettoville'. I suppose it is designed to conjure certain mental images, like 'Vapor City' or 'Galaxy Garden' but it just sounds like the kind of thing I'd imagine a school kid writing over a sketch he did in art class after playing GTA for weeks on end. But that's just an aside.

Alright, the music. Well, that's what it is: alright. It's okay. It's decent. Overall, fairly unmemorable but it has some good moments. The first half or so reminds me of the massively disappointing 'Spit' by Ron Morelli. Not dancefloor enough to be L.I.E.S brand of lo-fi techno, somewhat like a less noisy 'Colonial Patterns'. Much of the Detroit influence that made 'Splazsh' interesting seems to be lost here, replaced by a more hypnagogic vibe. Thankfully some more variety comes into play in the latter half of the album.

Listening to the 30-second samples I thought this might be a proper quality LP, and pre-release track 'Rap' showed good promise with it's vaporwave-style R&B slow jam stylings, and indeed this is one of the better tracks on the album. 'Gaze' is another standout, with some Floorplan style housy synths, as well as 'Image' with it's fat mosquito synth trills and on point snares. I think these work because they are less 'abstract' or 'ambient' and more akin to actual dance music. However, while there are these refreshing allusions to vaporwave, hip hop, house, even synth-funk, the bulk of the nearly 70 minutes running time is quite subdued, drudgery through hazy, hiss-soaked, vaguely outlined beats. Maybe if the highlights were edited into the standard 40-50 album running time, this would sound less aimless and some of the tunes less like vague sketches rather than complete tracks, or maybe not. I can forgive artists playing it safe or making more 'functional' tracks when they're aiming at the club but this is decidedly home listening fare, and even the 'ambient' label can't rescue unmemorable music. A plus is that the album artwork does somewhat resemble the musics mood.

I'll reiterate that I think it is a decent album. Flawed, amateurish (not to say Darren Cunningham is an amateur as he is clearly a very able and skilled producer), and although there were 2 years in between this and R.I.P, somehow slapdash. I'm sure these are qualities Actress purposefully wanted in there, but they just aren't doing it for me.

Also, Actress seems to have entered the ranks of artists in the world of underground electronic whose every new release gets the hype treatment from certain sections of the music press/blogosphere etc. Alongside other artists like Four Tet, Burial, Daft Punk (maybe too mainstream now), Aphex Twin, Autechre, BoC and possibly just entering this company OPN, James Blake, Flying Lotus and James Ferraro. These are all artists who are perceived to produced some accomplished works over a number of years and therefore a kind of imaginary critical standard is applied to all of their output (whether this has positive or negative effects on listeners' consumption of the music is, of course, entirely subjective and individual). For me, it means I expect these artists to be a cut above newcomers, lesser known (lesser hyped) artists and the mass of free music available on bandcamp, soundcloud etc. (apart from Autechre who I just don't like at all). With 'Ghettoville' I'm not sure Actress does anything to cement this status, and if anything it's less appealing than his previous two albums, particularly 'Splazsh'.

Freezing Opening Thawing
Freezing Opening Thawing
Price: 7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Genre-defying, 27 Jan 2014
There really isn't anything that sounds quite like this. Even though there are beats, it's far removed from dance music proper, and it's too busy to be ambient. A sort of laid back West or South African tribal sound using the synth presets favoured by Shangaan electro producers to emulate the usual punchy idiophones/lamellophones, mixed with chiptune/8-bit freak-outs. The soundtrack to a Mega Drive game set in an Afro-futurist dystopia. Most of the percussion is tuned meaning the bass and percussive elements are often inseparable and switching roles. Very dry and crisp sounding production lending to the hypnotic synthetic atmosphere. The title track is the key, and builds up really nicely, but it's all interesting. Also, the breathy, wind/vocal synth sound on Silver Keys reminds me of the soundtrack to an old anime called Legend of the Four Kings.

I haven't really listened to much Shackleton since his Fabric mix but I do like how his sound has progressed here. Less dark and moody, more quirky and lively, yet still highly mysterious.

Akira: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Akira: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Supreme synthesis of tradition and innovation, 23 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Boiled down to it's core elements this is a fusion soundtrack. A fusion of traditional Japanese and Indonesian musics with (at the time in 1987) modern electronic/rock tropes. This is highly reductionist however and doesn't hint at how well crafted this music is. Obviously it's a soundtrack and it works very well in it's non-diegetic role within the film, but it really does stand up as a separate piece of work that doesn't sound like much else that was around at the time (or even now for that matter). Due to this traditional meets modernist aesthetic it really does sound quite timeless. Possibly, the digital synth timbres of the Roland D-50 and Yamaha DX-7, as well as some of the guitar work plant it roughly in the 80's, but aside from that it still works well as a backdrop to a futuristic Tokyo. Compared to many 'futuristic' soundtracks which rely solely on new technology and techniques which can, in the long run, end up severely dating the accompanying film (think the theremin and 50's sci fi flicks or even great soundtracks from Wendy Carlos and Vangelis which used then state of the art synthesis technology).

Individually there are no weak tracks. If anything some of the shorter tracks could have been extended. 'Kaneda', Battle Against Clown', 'Winds Over Neo-Tokyo' and 'Exodus from the Underground Fortress' could have easily been extended without becoming repetitive, and developed into longer pieces. However, these shorter tracks do pack the most punch whether it be from the visceral kecak-esque vocals on "Battle Against Clown', the pounding jegog percussion on 'Kaneda', the glissandoing overdriven guitar and shimmering koto-like synths on 'Exodus from the Underground Fortress' or the eerie chromatic synthetic winds and ominous brass on the aptly titled 'Winds Over Neo Tokyo'. Not to dismiss the longer tracks which are probably more key to the mood of the film. 'Tetsuo' being the most idiosyncratic of the pieces with it's playful, skittery gamelan metallophones juxtaposed by the booming pipe organ and choral chants. 'Shohmyoh' is another interesting track in that it incorporates elements of the shomyo Buddhist chanting tradition but never becomes bogged down in any of it's stylistic rules, instead creating a much more strange mood by counterpointing the vocals with flourishes of electronics. 'Illusion' is the most frustrating of all the pieces, in that transforms from a beautifully ethereal gagaku inspired ambient track (the synthesizer doing a wonderful job substituting fro the sho mouth organ), into a straightforward Noh performance for about 5 minutes, before the gamelan percussion is introduced and the pace picks up a bit. It's not a bad track, I just feel the initial shinobue and synth theme for the first 4 minutes is the key component and the descent into pure Noh breaks the finely balanced equilibrium of new and oldd maintained on the other tracks. Finally 'Requiem' is a culmination of all the great constituent parts of the earlier tracks into the emotional acme of the score. The singers chanting the main characters names over and over, along with cryptic words like 'inochi' (life) and 'kodomo' (child), whilst repeatedly asking for 'nemure' (sleep) to bring the soundtrack it's own rest.

That's the best I can do to try and describe what is such a uniquely spectacular work of art. Geinoh Yamashirogumi have some other interesting and rewarding albums but I believe this is their magnum opus, and thanks to it being entwined with an equally seminal film it gets more attention than other similarly distinctive and forward thinking pieces of music. There really isn't much out there that sounds anything like this and certainly nothing as accomplished.

A/B Til Infinity
A/B Til Infinity
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top drawer, 10 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A/B Til Infinity (Audio CD)
Very strong sophomore album from Egyptrixx. Shares many of the same aesthetic qualities as his fellow Night Slugs cohorts but quite distinct. Definitely for home listening rather than the club, but it still has enough vestiges of the dancefloor.

Stylistically, it falls in the ambient/minimalist side of the techno/bass/grime sphere. Quite a dark, brooding mood in there, but thanks to the driving beats and shimmers of synths, never morose. There is a slight industrial feeling there too, but if traditional industrial is akin to an ironworks or some kind of foundry, this is more a PCB or chip manufacturing plant, clean, futuristic, self-automated machines, clockwork efficiency. No rust or debris, just pumping hydraulics and whirring motors. All the synth timbres have a polished, reflective sheen. Even the harsher elements sit nicely in the mix. The rhythms flow like an assembly line. However, it manages to avoid becoming monotonous, never slipping into the realm of excessive repetition like much minimal techno.

There are no stand out tracks, everything works well together in a tight, cohesive structure. This is both a pro and a con. It shows good artistic discipline to keep to an aesthetic or vision, but in terms of repeat listening there are little surprises. Basically, if you like this on the first listen, you'll like it after the twentieth, but I can't envisage it growing on people over time like some records.

Recommended if you are into NIght Slugs/Fade to Mind, Keysound, Livity Sound, OPN, Zomby, Kuedo, Vatican Shadow and possibly L.I.E.S, Hyperdub and Ostgut Ton.

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