It’s my pleasure to join the Bloglin family this summer as an underground labels correspondent. We are well into the second decade of the 21st century, in a time where the lines between pop and underground cultures are continually blurred. Nowadays, we see a greater acceptance from both ends of the creative spectrum and it permeates all mediums of art. As such, it is my pleasure to dive head first into the musical realm of this cultural shift.
One remarkable attribute of modern music is it incorporates elements from all of the subgenres that had initially served only to divide listeners further. Eventually, thanks to the file sharing phenomenon (aka Napster), popular exposure to countless styles of music previously inaccessible by way of mainstream radio or music video outlets soared.
We are now more aware of our cultural commonalities and tend to focus on this more than our differences. That’s why music is especially exciting now, because our ears are more willing to travel out of their comfort zones and embrace some of those uncomfortable elements and better yet, in a great parallel to human progress, make them work with our previous knowledge.
I do not intend on reviewing releases that have not moved me or that I dislike. Rather, I shall focus on sharing with you releases which have caught my attention and to describe in technical detail what it is about these songs or albums or artists that move me. With time, I hope to delve deeper into understanding what compels each individual artist to conceive, produce, and release their current works and how it may relate to their past and their future and thereby, our own pasts and futures. My tastes are vast, so you will see a diverse range of music covered here. Suggestions are always welcome.
So without further ado…
On July 2 2013 UK based production duo Holloh released their Bessarion EP on Sincerious Recordings. It’s a three track EP whose entire contents are sure to light up dance floors this summer. The title track starts with a familiar house groove that can be easily mixed into any dance set. With soulful vocal samples strewn throughout, this track really takes hold with the M1 organ (named for the Korg M1 workstation synth) melody at around 2:04. This sound has been standard in house and techno since 1988 when the M1 was first released, showing that Holloh is in the right frame of mind for recreating the vintage techno sound.
The second track, “Foreign Waters” is more exotic, deviating from the standard four on the floor rhythmic structure while still adhering to common dynamic elements. The shortest of the three songs on this release, “Foreign Waters” stands out to me as a strong go-to for DJs who might be in an abstract mood but still want to keep a dancefloor packed.
“Holy Ghost”, the closing song, returns to the standard house format beginning with a 4:4 beat, eventually adding a syncopated open-hat before bringing in an M1 organ melody that could easily have been in existence in 1990, which is then compounded by a bass line that matches its melody but in the lower register.
For fans of vintage dance music, especially this style of techno and house that was prevalent in the UK in the early 90′s, this is a much welcomed return to form, even employing elements of derivative genres like deep house and dub techno, with the clarity of modern production techniques. While many contemporary producers are over-saturating their tunes with bass, high-depth modulation (aka wobble wobble) and rapid fire hi-hats, Holloh are going back to basics in a way that is a breath of fresh air for ‘*.step’ weary dancers and for the old school partiers who miss what they came up on.
Soft Riot is a London based act, who according to his biography, is quite keen on revivalist culture of the early 2000′s, which saw many vintage synth bands unearthed, revisited and some times reformed. Emerging from this era is JJD (Jack Duckworth) who, as Soft Riot, incorporates many vintage electronic and goth elements into his production while addressing all trends of dark electronic music that have come in the years since.
Fiction Prediction takes me to a 1982 dancefloor with the hollow echoes of post-punk malaise still reverberating, creating a haunting and hypnotic vocal presence which nicely compliments the composition. It has the rigidity of old analog equipment and control voltage sequencers, mixed with the high definition bass frequencies made possible in modern software production.
“Cinema Eyes” has a minimal wave style bass-synth with staccato percussion, spooky modulated synth leads and the kind of sexy, digital groove that at once reminds me of Prince and Front 242. I am especially partial to “The Commuters”, a slower, sinister number that revolves mainly around the grinding, rolling bass as high register synth tones morph into their own. JJD’s haunting, almost whispering vocals coax the storyline into your ears whether you wanted to receive them that way or not.
Fiction Prediction thrives in its confident recreation of vintage composition templates and gives old sounds a modern touch. Every selection on Fiction Prediction is good for either Goth or 80′s parties. I would definitely love to hear artists like Soft Riot and his recent work become standard in new wave or 80′s dance parties in the states. I will put in a good word on my end. Soft Riot is about to embark on a European tour starting in London on Thursday, July 11.
Tilsonic, aka Alex Tilson, is a Philadelphia based electronic musician who been making waves for a few months now as part of the Glitch Squad roster. His original No Cigar EP available at Glitch Squad Records, released in November of 2012.
It stands out because it remains free of the ubiquitous elements of American electronic music (aka the pop formulizing of electronic music, lol) and rather creates a nice hybrid of many common rhythmic structures and melodies, refocusing it in a signature way that can only be created by the actual musicians playing. That is to say, his work goes a bit deeper than just programming. This remix EP released in June merges Tilsonic’s forward thinking music with a nice variety of Philly based producers, which accurately mirrors the diversity of Philadelphia’s current electronic music scene.
On one end, we have Mitchy Millz’s chill, dubby remix of “Amazon”, which when “reGlitched” by redHat, known for his live breakcore, IDM and glitchy forms of popular styles, becomes an entirely different affair that is equally, though differently mesmerizing. Architekt and Merk provide dance floor worthy remixes of “Ignition” and “No Cigar” respectively. CounterVulture brings it home with a glitchy, trip hop reimagining of the song “Fuse” which makes very interesting use of the source material, especially with the droning, ambient samples.
While tracks 2 and 4 can be worked into pretty much any bass-favoring DJ set, the first, third and last tracks are definitely more contemplative and work for lounge sets or in any relaxation-accommodating playlist. Either way, make sure you revisit the original No Cigar EP for reference. Good work all around on this release.
VNDL, a Canadian producer working in the IDM, ambient and glitch genre recently released his gahrena: structure LP. Hymen Records has a rich history in experimental electronic music, emerging in the late 90′s and steadily releasing cutting edge music that epitomized rhythmic abstraction.
Much IDM (intelligent dance music), breakcore and ambient have been released on this label and they continue to deliver the best in sound and rhythm design projects. VNDL’s gahrena: structure is a delightful journey into cavernous soundscapes, heavily effected guitars and pianos and the sort of disjointed, fragmented beat structure to be expected in IDM.
VNDL leaves no parameter untouched on this album, experimenting with different combinations of FX depths and rates, many times resulting in near-organic sounding cackles and rattling sounds. Subtle pans on tones with higher resonance create a creeping feeling that might have a listener looking over his or her shoulder, especially if listening in headphones.
While some rhythms on this album definitely do warrant head bobbing, this release seems more focused on the balance between organic and synthetic sound and how they can be manipulated to create new aural stimuli as yet unachievable by mere tone generation (whether plucking strings, striking keys, or controlling an oscillator).- Mr. Manic