Ambient music doesn’t always have to be floating textures, light atmospheres and healing synths, it can be gnarly and visceral. That’s the route Eric Holm has trodden to create his snowy debut opus Andøya for Bristol’s Subtext label. As the story goes, Subtext Recordings released ‘two seminal 12″s’ by industrial grime pioneers Vex’d in 2004 and 2005 – the Pop Pop / Canyon and Lion / Ghost 12”s – and then disappeared. Since Paul Jebanasam reignited the label in 2011 it’s by and large become home to the music of Emptyset and Roly Porter, the latter one half of Vex’d.
If you’d set out your electronic music predictions for 2014 last December, it’s fair to assume that Luke Vibert releasing a new album on Hypercolour wouldn’t have been one of them. On first glance, it certainly looks like an odd pairing. Vibert is, of course, a man renowned for taking eccentric turns – a producer just as likely to drop an album of drill and bass, revivalist jungle or eccentric rave-inspired hip hop cut-ups as a set of smooth, Metro Area-inspired electronic disco or intense 303 acid experiments. As for Hypercolour, their reputation has largely been built on pushing club-friendly blends of deep house, tech house and UK garage. There have been plenty of club hits since 2006, but few albums; in fact, this surprise full length from the Cornish producer is only the label’s second artist album. That said, Jamie Russell and Alex Jones’ imprint seems to progressively be widening its remit, and if whispers are believed we could be in for more surprises in coming months; either way, it would be fair to say that Hypercolour is finally coming of age.
When Pinch announced his breakaway label Cold Recordings, it came with a purposeful statement of intent about embracing the darker side of dance music, tackling the glut of middle ground sounds that rose from the dubstep gene pool in search of something more stylistically weighted. While his original imprint Tectonic continues to broaden its remit as an electronic label in the bigger sense of the word, the move to Cold reflects the move Peverelist made in starting up Livity Sound. Their labels may have different characteristics, but in both cases the motivation is to have a platform on which to indulge in a more personal kind of artistic venture.
Jorge Velez has seen his share of different terrains. Growing up around the blue-collar textile factories of New Jersey and the still-hopeful, pre-economic-crash American industrialism of the ’80s, Velez explained the importance of the smells, sights and sounds of those work floors to Juno Plus back in 2012. But despite the unique location of his upbringing, and a lifetime of travel (including a European tour with an experimental band he was part of in the pre-MySpace era), Velez’s music doesn’t seem restricted by real places. Instead, he seems most inspired when he’s conjuring spaces from the dark recesses of his mind. Take the Hassan LP on L.I.E.S, which found Velez weaving a wholly-imagined soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist – a film about an order of Persian assassins in the 13th century. Velez admits that it wasn’t created with a physical landscape of any kind in mind, but instead as a tool to get the listener immersed deep inside whatever landscapes their brains served up.
Glance at the illustrated Terje on the cover looking despondent in his leisure suit with a plunging neckline, fancy cocktails strewn about his piano, and it’s obvious that we are in the realm of parody. Todd Terje has always been a bit self-deprecating, placing himself willingly in the nu-disco camp (a genre-tag that many think has the same inherently negative qualities as a word like “hipster”) and agreeing wholeheartedly at Norwegian state-funded radio’s assertion that “Inspector Norse” sounds like elevator music. According to a recent interview, album opener Opener “Intro (It’s Album Time)” was chosen with “It’s Money Time” losing out as a close second.
Crystal Cult 2080 is Danny Wolfers’ fourth Legowelt album in as many years, and ninth overall, so a cynic could ask do we really need it? Does it do anything that not been done before by Wolfers? The question may become even more compelling when you think of all the albums released under his other names. Cynics can go to hell, because the listening public need Legowelt more than Danny Wolfers needs us. ‘Why is that?’ you might ask, jaded music cynic. Firstly, Wolfers’ sense of humour, array of second hand jumpers, love of obsolete and knackered technology will always seem refreshingly human in the face of the self-importance that has stricken so much of electronic music. Furthermore, the Dutchman has spent years happily indulging his creative nature outside of wider appreciation, filling CDrs of material for his own Strange Life label and the likes of Bunker and Crème without any real concern for the notion of a new Legowelt transmission being reported as “being prepped for release” by the content farm.
Artists that genuinely defy categorization are, in all honesty, a rarity, and it’s become somewhat clichéd to describe a producer’s output as “genre-straddling” or “impossible to pigeonhole”. More often than not this is journalistic code for “surprisingly eclectic”, or a sly indication that the writer is simply lost for words in the face of the kind of musical fusions that baffle and delight in equal measure. Mo Kolours, though, does genuinely defy easy categorization. His music is refreshingly different, thoroughly eccentric and, with the odd exception, utterly brilliant. Describing tracks becomes pointless; it’s easier to reel off a list of obvious influences than it is to accurately reflect the warmth, depth, honesty and soul of his sumptuously scratchy sonic world.
They were part of a group of techno labels that favoured anonymity, but the Frozen Border/Horizontal Ground axis wasn’t content to just put out hand-stamped vinyl. Frozen Border put together the impressive Minutes in Ice compilation in 2012, and has now released its first artist album. Szare’s Lost Shapes marks a further development for the label; while the duo’s album is available in vinyl format, the accompanying CD, with the grandiose title Carved In Those Dancing Gravestones is the main focus. Szare explain via email that “the CD is, in many ways the album, while the vinyl is just six more tracks…. of course vinyl takes priority in shop listings and in the scene in general, but we wanted to put out a lot of our material which isn’t really suitable for vinyl, and a CD by itself would not have been commercially viable so we threw it in with a double pack to make the whole thing more appealing”.
Collaboration, particularly within local scenes, has always been one of the more positive aspects of electronic music. Since the evolution of house and techno in Chicago and Detroit respectively, producers, musicians, label owners and party promoters have always joined forces to work together, put on events and showcase their sounds to the world. Chicago may not be the best example given the infamously cut-throat nature of the early house scene (feuds sparked in the early 1980s still rumble on to this day, in some instances), but there are others; the Yorkshire-centric feel of Warp during its earliest days, the Madchester evolution of Factory Records in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and the friends-helping-friends vibe of contemporary North American labels like Future Times, L.I.E.S and Mood Hut springs to mind.
Although there are plenty of people who will tell you that jungle never really went anywhere, nobody could deny that the amount of critical attention paid to producers like Special Request, Tessela, Mumdance and Mark Pritchard last year for the way in which they seemed to take inspiration from the genre to create new musical forms. However, its did seem somewhat revisionist that most of the discourse around this hybrid sound seemed to forget that the likes of T++, Dave Huismans and Modern Love duo Andy Stott & Miles Whittaker’s Millie & Andrea project had been doing something similar several years before.
Given Tobias Freund’s post-production work on Function’s debut album last year, it is natural that listeners might draw comparisons between that release and the German artist’s own new album. Such perspectives are not lazily arrived at, and at its outset A Series of Shocks practically invites such comparisons. The album starts with the dreamy, textured ambience of “Entire” and the gentle hisses and ticks of the unobtrusive groove of “Heartbeat”, both of which suggest that there is some overlap in the 90s ambient techno sources that shape both releases.
Last year’s Into The Light compilation, the first release on Ilias Pitsios and Tako Reyenga’s label of the same name, did a terrific job in highlighting the little-known world of early Greek electronic music. Featuring artists whose careers invariably stalled before they got started, or at least made little impact outside of Greece, the compilation featured all manner of oddball electronic treats, with prog rock, ambient, new age, disco and synth-pop being twisted into intriguing new shapes. One of the more notable artists to feature on that collection was Vangelis Katsoulis, a composer/producer whose 1980s work – a melodic blend of new age melodies and ambient soundscapes with distinct jazz and soundtrack influences – is held in high regard by crate-diggers.
Is autumn the most beautiful season? Phillip Sollmann seems to think so, and his third album Decay focuses on the slide from summer into the later half of the year. It’s no lazy conceptual ploy; Sollmann started work on the project during an artistic residency in Japan and finished the tracks back in Berlin as the leaves turned brown on the trees.
In some ways it’s easy to overlook just how much Ed Upton has contributed to the furthering of electro in his time as a producer. Since emerging in 1996 when the likes of Drexciya were still positively active, the man has been on an unstoppable quest to keep machine funk alive in the hearts and souls of b-boys and girls everywhere. His label Breakin’ Records has been a reliable outpost for true-school continuations of the sound, while aliases such as Ed DMX and Computor Rockers have delivered varying shades of club-ready cuts rich in full-fat synths and pristine drum machine breaks.
Panoram is the epitome of a curiosity. Since first making waves with his 2012 debut 12”, the beguiling Accents on Scenario, he’s very much kept himself to himself. There have been occasional interviews and a sporadic trickle of new material on his Soundcloud profile, but little else. He cherishes his anonymity, refuses to release pictures of himself, and generally makes music that’s bafflingly hard to pigeonhole. We know this much: he’s Italian, based inRome, and once attended the Red Bull Music Academy. That’s pretty much it. He’s a man who delights in flying under the radar, occasionally releasing music that impresses with its simple beauty and impressive inventiveness.
Artist trajectories can be a curious thing to observe, often sorting the wheat from the chaff between those with a sonic identity in constant development and those suffering knee jerk reactions to trends and hype. Nick Edwards certainly exists in the former camp, and his latest album as Ekoplekz is a fine case in point. The signs were already there with the likes of his Plekzationz LP on Editions Mego, which saw his grimy nightmare-dub calling card peppered with occasional blasts of light (read: melodic tones). Still though, the focus was on atonal pulses, echoes and reverbs of a distinctly obtuse nature, as has been his artistic raison d’etre since the word go.
If the press release which accompanies Owen Darby’s debut album for Keysound is to be believed, then Signals gets its name from the producer’s use of vocal samples in the album, each of which is a “signal” in its own right, a “node in a spacious neural network; bursting into the moment only to swiftly retreat.” “Power, locale, identity, intent, inequality, sexuality, gender, diversity, energy” are all supposedly encoded into these transmissions, which, in being sampled from London slang and live pirate radio see the album fitting quite neatly into contemporary bass music’s current fascination for all things nostalgic.
Italian-in-London Alessio Natalizia has already proven himself to be something of a master when it comes to creating evocative, off-kilter music that joins the dots between fuzzy analogue electronica, krautrock, dreamy ambience and droning, industrial-influenced abstract sonics. He’s perhaps best known for making up half of Kompakt regulars Walls, whose dreamy, shoegaze-influenced voyages into sound benefit greatly from his ear for layered guitar textures, pastoral sounds and hypnotic, pulsating rhythms.
I stumbled on my first Golf Channel Record years ago in a tiny, humid 3rd floor Osaka record shop. I was making awkward small talk with the owner in my best half-assed Japanese when I found a copy of M.E’s “R&B Drunkie” – a white, unadorned sleeve with their instantly recognizable mountaintop logo peeking out. The memory of finding that record stays with me, and not only because I still pack “R&B Drunkie” in my vinyl bag on a regular basis. Instead, it spoke to how Golf Channel manages to preserve their work in a vacuum of intrigue – not a “who-could-this-masked-DJ-possibly-be?” sense, but instead, every project takes joy in a degree of anonymity and obscurity: the joy of unearthing something unhinged from time and place.
The real mystery for me has not been the true nature of Delroy Edwards’ identity, but just why the producer would seemingly find inspiration in the name of a convicted killer and drug dealer for his production alias. Despite the gritty, saturated take on ghetto house, when Edwards first appeared on L.I.E.S. in 2012 with 4 Club Use Only, there was little to suggest where the dark moniker quite slotted into the producer’s mythos. Although the Delroy Edwards mystique might have slipped somewhat in the time that has since passed, the consistently sadistic streak that runs throughout the Teenage Tapes LP might go someway to filling in some of the gaps.