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Total 12
Total 12
Price: £11.57

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Total re-establishes itself, 11 Dec. 2011
This review is from: Total 12 (Audio CD)
The latest Kompakt collection is a markedly different experience to recent Total collections. For the first time in years, the collection is back to a 1 cd collection, rather than offering 2 discs. And the releases are from the core producers who have been the heartbeat of Kompakt for many years; Mayer, Superpitcher, Gui Boratto, Wolfgang Voigt, Gus Gus and co. So why this stripping back from one disc from two, and giving this space to just the label's most consistent producers? One can't help but wander if this tells us something of where the label stands in it's relevance to the modern electronic scene, or perhaps sales have dwindled after the disappointing offerings on Total 11, which featured very few tracks worth the purchase.

So how do the core of Kompakt fair on this collection? The answer is positive. This collection is far more melodic than Total 11 and has a mood closer to Mayer's original Immer mix than recent Total collections. After a warm melodic opener from Kolombo, it maintains a melodic minimal/house mood throughout most of it's offerings. A lull occcurs in the middle of the cd, as the harder tech-house siren-soaked offerings from Mayer and Boratto are a very long way short of their personal best, and Aguayo's disco slice 'I don't smoke' is an aquired taste to say the least. Modernist brings things back on track, re-instating the mood posessed by the earlier records and from here Total 12 manages to rescue itself from losing the listener in it's final third. The mid-cd lull is forgotten in a moment, as the absolute gems of Coma's 'Playground Altona' and Wolgang Voigt's 'Frieden' burst forth. The rich guitar melody of 'Playground Altona', and the drifting harmonic chants of 'Frieden' take the listener away, and reminds us why Kompakt is still so important after all. It is reflective musical moments like this, seemingly designed for stargazing, that reaffirm one's faith in electronic music. The closing records from Reinhold Voigt and Mohn are also spell-binding, and the listener is trully left tingling.

Total 12 is a worthy purchase.


Immer
Immer
Price: £8.39

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Always, 17 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: Immer (Audio CD)
Michael Mayer's 'Immer' - German for 'Always', is a mix that has made a big impact on electronic music. RA ranked it as the best mix cd of the first decade of the 2000s, and across the net you will see it listed as one of, if not the, greatest minimal electronic dj mix made. So why is this CD such a landmark? The answer lies in its dedication to what it is - an expression of minimalism. The tracks seem to float across from one another - there's no emphasis on the roll of the dj and his ability - it's purely about the flow of the set. It's very deep in it's textures, it just floats in it's strange, alien minimal way. Yet somehow it's still accessible as a dancefloor 'head-nodder' too. At times, Mayer doesn't mix the records at all - because it's not about him, its about the records on show. If he wants you to hear the very first note of the track, you will. And it's the way in which the set seems entirely dedicated to a love of a certain feel, a mood that this music creates, which is what makes it so good. For me, the set feels as if it moves in three stages, the opening 5 make a coherent, floaty yet solid introduction, and then things change, the set becomes more mechanical and robotic in sound. At track 10, 'Perfect Lovers', the set takes another twist, and the last stage seems to have a haunting drama to it.

The highlights for me are Audision's 'Gamma Limit', Rocket no.3's 'Rocket no.3', M.Rahn's 'Toaster', 'Perfect Lovers' and Selway's 'Flying High'. My main quibble with the set is that the one track that doesnt get Mayer's full attention is the fantastic 'Deeper' by Stargazer. Mayer plays only it's opening phase before mixing into the next records which to my mind are quite significantly inferior to 'Deeper', which is a shame. I'd also add that, for all the hype around this mix, I actually prefer Immer 3. But this is the one which set the standard and will be remembered by minimal music fans for many years to come, and it has it's rightful place as an important and significant achievement in the history of electronic music.


The Devil's Walk
The Devil's Walk
Price: £15.16

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Apparat's new electronic-indie sound, 8 Oct. 2011
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This review is from: The Devil's Walk (Audio CD)
I ordered this Album pre-release, along with Gui Boratto's new album 'III'. And this offering from Sascha Ring, A.K.A Apparat, trully blew Gui's tidy offering out of the water. The production quality is out of this world, and Apparat has done here what Gui badly failed to do; he showed a distinct move in direction and development to his sound. In truth, Apparat has done this with every album he has produced, whether alone or in conjunction with others (such as his albums with Modeselektor under the guise 'Moderat' or alongside Ellen Allien). This album is an album of songs, rather than electronic tunes. It may seem hard to believe the same man produced the incredible experimental techno masterpiece 'Multifunctionsebene' 7 years earlier, because this album feels more in following of the likes of Sigur Ros, M83, Radiohead and Depeche Mode than experimental techno. But, although this album has resemblances to more recent Apparat albums, most noteably 'Walls', it's clearly a shift from this too. Walls was highly orchestral, with many violin and string based melodies on show; this is more Folk/Rock/Indie orientated, yet still clearly electronica too.

'The Devil's Walk' is a very intelligent album. Apparat is a smart chap, and it shows. The lyrics across the album are inspired, the vocal performances (largely from Sascha himself) are deep and absorbing, and the balance between recognisable instruments and electronic exploration is finely tuned to perfection. 'Song of Los' is the highlight for me. I must admitt where I part from Wolf's excellent review; I prefer 'Walls' to this album. I feel more track-to-track variation is on show on 'Walls' (feel free to comment if you agree/disagree), and some of the tunes are just that little bit too sombre-pop in style for me. But Apparat fans, do not fear disappointment; your main man has not let you down. It's top, top quality music and very worthy of the purchase. I might add, having bought the Vinyl edition (which includes a cardboard-cased CD too), that the album sounds perfect at those lower warm frequencies and the medium complements the album perfectly.

Apparat now performs in two ways; as 'Apparat Band' and as, of course, 'Apparat', one being a traditional rock band layout, the other being Sascha surrounded by his technology. I imagine 'The Devil's Walk' will be a delicious offering live from 'Apparat Band', so keep 'em peeled for when the show hits the road..


III
III
Price: £12.07

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gui's back, but not all guns blazing, 8 Oct. 2011
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This review is from: III (Audio CD)
So, we have here one of those albums I've been looking forward to for a while; the latest from the immensely talented Brazilian Minimal/tech-house master, Gui Boratto. Gui's two previous albums (Chromophobia & Take my Breathe Away) were both huge, and outstanding remixes for the likes of Massive Attack and Bomb the Bass have further enhanced the profile of this talent. Chromophobia put this man on the map; he was a new leader in the field of minimal techno. Take my Breathe Away was significantly different; more melodic, acoustic-tinged and vocal offerings added a new dimension to his sound and made him really stand out.

So what could we expect of the latest album, III? A mixed bag of minimal and tech-house with a melodic, acoustic edge? Pretty much, although it's much more like Chromophobia than Take My Breathe Away. The album has a few big offerings, the funky and ever-building 'Talking Truss' being the outstanding tune of the album for me. But overall, I haven't fallen in love with III. There's just too many tracks which feel like they weren't quite good enough to make it onto Chromophobia, and he doesn't seem to have developed as an artist on this album. Take My Breathe Away was a distinct move in style from the minimal tech of his earlier work; III doesn't seem to show any further development to Gui's sound.

Overall then, I'd have to say that's it's ok, I like a few tracks on here a lot, but there's little that's infectious. Few tracks are memorable and barely anything grabs you from the first listening. Having said this, it's not rubbish. Soledad is a beautiful tune, Destination Education is cool too. Perhaps it'll grow on me with time, but I think this is one for Gui fans and general fans of tech-house; but if I were to introduce a friend to Gui's music, I would rather play his mix of 'Paradise Circus', 'Black River', or the earlier two albums to express why I think he's a top electronic music producer.


BALANCE 019
BALANCE 019
Price: £13.57

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Set of the year, 1 Aug. 2011
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This review is from: BALANCE 019 (Audio CD)
I must admitt I wasn't familar with Henry's sound before discovering he was next in line to create the latest balance mix. But he was an excellent choice and has produced something with a very distinctive sound. Its sounds both retro and completely new, it really highlights all the influences on Henry's style, from the RnB music of the 70s to the moody tones of 80s electronica, and even a sense of the meloncholy of Boards of Canada's productions. It is progressive house unashamed of its historical roots and wider influences, and it's all the better for it.

The two discs both flow incredibly, yet every track is distinct. it's hard to pick out highlights from such a work where each track belongs to the one before and after it, but if I was pushed, I'd have to say Henry Saiz's 'Vargtimmen' on disc 2 really struck me. It's so eerie, complex, unpredictable, and the deep tones set off the glitch and other goings on in the track fantastically. 'Lady in the Mirror' and 'Black Heart' also really stand out on disc 1, and 'trip of the Dolphin' and 'Nodo 6' are simply mesmerising on disc 2.

Henry used tape recorders in his composition of this mix, which highlights a daring way to compose the set, which gives the sound an added warmth. There is a much higher proportion of Henry's own work on show than is normal on a mix compilation. I think the last time I saw a producer showcase so much of their own work on a mix was back in 2000, when Mauro Picotto released his 'Lizard Man' mix on Nukleuz records. I loved Nick Warren's installment to the balance collection, but this one feels like the producer has really put their all into it, where as Warren's mix was more about showcasing new talented producers. This mix, overall, is better, the hard work has paid off. Cd2 of Warren's mix drifts a little into predictability. This mix stays fresh throughout.

In summary, if you like music with depth, and want to here the very pinnacle of what progressive house music can be today, this mix is for you. This really is something special.


In Search Of Sunrise 9: India
In Search Of Sunrise 9: India
Price: £12.75

3.0 out of 5 stars Its not in search of sunrise, but the mixes do grow on you, 6 July 2011
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I'm a massive fan of ISOS, I have them all and just love the depth and haunting sound they produce so well. Tracks such as Taste experience's 'Tantrix', Solarstone's 'Solarcoaster', Chiller Twist's 'Strings Ultd' and JASEFOS' 'Do What You Want' characterise a deep, melodic and reflective mood that the ISOS mixes pull off to perfection. There's always been depth and subtlety. Personally, I think things changed a little with ISOS 6, with just a few cheesy vocal tracks creeping into the mixes, and the sense of ISOS being a reflective experience began to fade. I still enjoyed this mix and the two that followed a great deal, but the mood had shifted slightly. ISOS 8, Richard Durand's first offering was good, bar a few cheesy moments. There was still a good balance and diversity of sound on show, without losing a good flow. I also have enjoyed his ISOS podcast shows which I would recommend - they are free to download on itunes.

It's this edition, ISOS 9, where I feel ISOS has lost what made it distinctive; the sense of reflection, atmosphere and haunting beauty. ISOS 9 doesn't have this mood, its more a collection of uplifting summer house and trance tracks. ISOS 9 starts very well, in particular 'tonight' and 'craters of the moon' begin to create a good summer mix feel. Overall, both discs have enjoyable moments, but they don't display the hauntingly beautiful edge I see as core to making an ISOS mix more than just a trance or melodic house set. A real gripe with this mix is particularly clear in CD2 - even when the melody of the tunes are enjoyable, cheesy lyrics such as 'turn every tear into a star' really spoil a number of tracks I might otherwise have rated. Still, there are enough tracks that I like for me to feel ok about this mix, and undoubtedly both discs have grown on me with repeated listens.

I don't think ISOS 9 re-creates the kind of sense of a personal journey that the earlier ISOS editions created, but it's got a nice summer feel to it. Disc one gets 3.5 stars and disc 2 gets 3 stars from me.


Kaleidoscope
Kaleidoscope
Price: £15.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tiesto abandons depth & melody for pop-synth mediocrity, 23 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Kaleidoscope (Audio CD)
As a dedicated follower of Tiesto's melodic sound since I was about 14, I cannot tell you how disappointed by this album I was. I know the style had been changing over the last few albums, but it's here that the days of depth, progression and haunting melody, characteristic of the In Search of Sunrise series; Revolution, In My Memory, Nyana, Just be, Magik 1-7 and so forth are well and truly gone. I only hope someone follows that great path that he has set, as he has abandoned it himself. Kaleidoscope has almost nothing going for it. The tracks are cheesy, and fail to be catchy or memorable. They are, largely, tacky and cheap sounding pop-synth trash, with pop artists providing vocals, including Nelly Furtado and Dizzy Rascal. There is no depth here, and it's even quite self-indulgent in places. High points? The track featuring the Cary Brothers wasn't too bad, but the best tracks are probably 'Always Near' and 'Surrounded by Light', which are nice instrumentals, and are very rare melodic respites during an otherwise disappointing listening experience. Sadly, both tracks are very short.

I think the In search of sunrise mix series is the best mix series money can buy, especially the earlier installments. It baffles me that someone who could so patiently assemble the hauntingly beautiful 'In search of sunrise 3' could produce this shallow piece of nothing. I can only assume that he wants to appeal to a bigger audience, having become bigger than the trance genre himself. In doing so, he has abandoned so many of his fans. I'm just glad I went to see him play at the In search of sunrise 5 & 7 parties, before this genre shift occurred.

So, so disappointing.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2011 12:41 PM BST


The Myths We Live By (Routledge Classics)
The Myths We Live By (Routledge Classics)
by Mary Midgley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best place to begin an exploration of Midgley's thought, 19 May 2011
This is the best book to get a feel of what Midgley is all about. Midgely is an expert when it comes to highlighting the myths we are surrounded by all the time, even in the writings of the greatest minds alive. In this text, Midgley targets social contract theory, scientism and reductivism.

Social contract theory assumes us all to be self interested at heart and only co-operative in order to serve our own interests further. This has not evolutionary backing, Midgley insists. Darwin belived we are collaborative by nature, so the idea of requiring a contract to hold us all together isn't warranted at all. The reason we need to abandon this metaphor is that the contract theory sees us only as as having responsibility to those also as a part of the same community or nation-state of our own. This form of morality is no use to us in a globalised age and needs serious re-thinking.

Scientism is mainly due to a confusion of a scientific worldview with a scientistic one. Many think that being scientific intails the belief that natural science alone provides a reliable description of our world and its goings on. The best known adovate (and most criticised) is the Chemist Peter Atkins, who has written a great deal on the omnicompetence of science. The idea is that physics and chemistry constitute a true account of things and other disciplines such as the social sciences, history, law etc are referring only to an epiphenomenon - an illusion produced by the underlying physical structures and forces at work. Its completely reductive in its approach - another example would be behaviourism, which didn't see motives as 'real' in anyway at all, they just had the appearance of being real.

Midgley's key point is really that a mind is no less real than a particle, a person's motivation to act is no less real than a force acting upon an object. This doesn't mean the mind is a sort of ghost in the machine - Midgley holds no such view. We live in 'one world but a big one' as Midgley puts it. Reductivism - reducing the real to particle physics and forces and seeing our everyday experience as an epiphenomenon with no causal consequences of its own isn't scientific, its scientistic. We need social scientists and historians as much as physicists for us to have a good account of things, one doesn't 'trump' the others.

A core theme is that we are not passively controlled by smaller units, we have just as 'real' an existence as the forces that act upon us and the genes we are made of. We are not governed by our genes, we ARE our genes, there is no passive, separate self to be governed by.

One criticism I have come to appreciate is Midgley's use of Dawkins' writing in the selfish gene. It is important to note that Dawkins' uses the idea of the genes manipulating the body it is contained within, not because this is straightforwardly what happens, but rather because this might be how it would look from the gene's-eye-view. This does not mean from the person's view, they are passive. Its just a lively personification of the activity if the gene, which I do think midgley is a little hard on. But it is understandable that she highlight the personification when reductionism has become so popular in modern scientific writing.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 23, 2011 7:36 PM BST


BALANCE 018 MIXED BY NICK WARREN
BALANCE 018 MIXED BY NICK WARREN
Price: £8.21

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid mix, but not his best, 18 May 2011
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It took two weeks to arrive, but since its arrival, its been played over and over. I felt very confident this was going to be another smooth, swanky Warren mix from the opening seconds of CD 1, where the fantastic 'only' by Ormatie kicks things off. The following track, entitled 'Morning paper' by Spieltape would probably be my favourite tune of the mix. The set builds beautifully across the first 5 tracks of disc one. At this stage, its a 5 star set. The mood is deep, melodic, progressive but the set just oozes cool. Track 5, entitled 'My Addiction' is one of the most catchy tunes I've heard in years. This balance is a club mix, theres no doubt about it, and so takes a very different approach to some of the eclectic, experimental balance mixes, such as the Agoria (016) mix.

Having built the set up on CD 1 so well, perhaps after this point the set could have diversified a little more. The tracks are largely chunky baseline driven, rhythmic prog tunes without lyrics. Its the kind of mix where the journey could just as well have been complete mid-way through as at its close. So I guess I felt it needed a spark of imagination, something in there to surprise, to reel you back in.

I haven't found CD 2 quite so absorbing, although I haven't listened to it as much and become as familar with it yet. I like the tunes, but as a set its quite predictable, which is not something Nick Warren mix cds, such as Reykjavik, Shanghai or Paris, are normally guilty of. CD 2 gets 3 stars.

The two mixes are the kind of sets that you could stick on in the background while your chilling on a sunday, stick on your headphones when you're out for a run, or that you could pump from your speakers at a party. Quite a lot of reviewers have expressed there disappointment at the short tracklists, why only 11 tunes per disc? I guess the answer is because this isn't like the other balance mixes. Warren has explained that his aim was to showcase some of the new talented producers coming through, and so, it makes sense to display their work as fully as can be done in the sets. So, in a sense, he's not trying to show you what he's capable of, but what the young guns coming through are.

Summing up then, It doesn't challenge the listener like some other Warren mix cds have or some earlier balance mixes have. But, despite this, its still a solid, smooth, super-cool mix from one of the most reliable Djs in town.


fabric 57: Agoria
fabric 57: Agoria
Price: £9.57

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great flowing set from a master of the mix CD, 23 April 2011
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This review is from: fabric 57: Agoria (Audio CD)
The latest edition to the Fabric collection is a really good one. There's a range of styles on show, but the overarching sound is more tribal/prog house and electronica with a melodic edge. Agoria is back on top form here, with an extremely slick mix. The opener (no less than three tracks overlayed) sets the mood of the set perfectly - middle paced, melodic dreamy electronica. The flow of this set is out of this world, I can scarcely notice where some of the overlaps are. When you see that there are two separate tracklists, for the tracklist itself and then then a second tracklist for 'tracks featured throughout this mix', you know you are listening to something genuinely intuitive and original, and pieced together by someone with unbelievable talent. I listened to a few of the original versions of these tracks unmixed on YouTube and agoria transforms some of them quite radically, especially clara moto's 'deer and fox'.

Stand out tracks? Well besides the opening combination of Vainqueur-Ranges - 'Theme', Ensemble Economique -'Real Things' and Zodiac free Arts Club - Ein Lied Fur Popul Vuh', the stand out moments for me were Jerome Sydemham's 'Rhythm' which is a smooth, tribal piece of house, Clara Moto's 'Dear & Fox' - the vocal highlight of the set, and then Cottam's 'Sunrise Sunset' which has a 'higher state of consciousness' edge to it which, along with a top remix of 'blackmagic' by Jose James really absorbs you emotionally, and is the peak of the set. Agoria makes use of his own productions from his latest album 'Impermanence', but keeps it fresh for his fans by using remixes which keeps the this and Impermance keeping their own distinct mood.

My only complaint is that the 'big band' closing track from Ella Fitzgerald just didn't work for me. It didn't fit the mood he built so well throughout the set. By all means selecting an older classic work that wasn't electronica is fine by me, but it should have been something with some emotion and depth, which the set generated so well in long spells here.

let's not finish on a negative note though, this is well worth the money and will certainly be seeing many plays to come for me. Agoria is at the top of his game right now and is one of the few djs which I will instantly purchase any new album or mix he releases without hesitation.


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