Bristol hub Black Acre round off a strong year with Zenith, a second release on the label from elusive Scottish producer Loops Haunt.
Dave ‘Hyetal’ Corney’s much anticipated debut album brilliantly demonstrates his development as a producer. Initially celebrated for the atmospheric quality of his heavy dubstep beats and typically Bristolian fusions of techno and what’s glibly called “bass music”, Corney has gradually been moving in different directions for the past 12 months.
For those familiar with recent musical developments in his adopted home city of Bristol, it may not be much of a surprise. Having always been a city obsessed by bass and beats above all else, Bristol’s scene now boasts a mix of cutting-edge producers of touchy-feely house (Julio Bashmore, Outboxx), space-obsessed synth twiddlers (even techno stalwart October has released an EP of star-gazing nu-disco) and far-sighted labels keen to push next-level electronic music with no limits (Immerse, Soul Motive, Black Acre, Idle Hands etc.) – all, of course, with plenty of low-end pulse.
In the midst of all this open-minded musical experimentation, it’s no surprise that Broadcast is a much more musically complex beast than previous Hyetal releases. Of course, there are plenty of dubstep-influenced rhythms amongst the shimmering ambience and off-kilter beats, but the lasting impression is of shimmering electronics, heavy appreggios and luscious synthscapes. Check, for example, “The Chase”, with its almost cinematic sweeps and beatless, Italo-influenced rhythms, or “Phoenix”, a pleasingly innocent, almost Balearic fusion of chiming melodies, Bashmore-ish pads and skittering percussion.
Even the album’s heavier moments come cloaked in a veneer of sparkling beauty (see the glistening melodies and floor-pummeling beats of “Beach Scene”, or the crystalline disco-step of “Searchlight”), and there are enough deliciously touchy-feely downtempo moments to thrill all but the most hardened of bassheads (check the ambient opener “Ritual” and heady “Transmission”). Above everything else, Broadcast is a proper album – and a thrilling one at that.
Inspired by the sounds of Flying Lotus, Hudson Mohawke, Ras G and a whole heap of other influential beatmakers, this two piece outfit from Eastern Europe formed in 2005 and made their debut on Beatnicks Vol 1 in 2007. This was swiftly followed by a couple of singles, then albums, on Eklektic and Team Acre, via a remix on Svetlana in 2010. Now the duo return with their first release of 2011 on the aforementioned Bristol based label Black Acre (Team Acre’s big daddy) with their wholly unique Before Sunrise EP.
Opening with the eponymous track of the EP, 1000 Names ease us in with chopped up, high-pitched vocal snatches (not entirely dissimilar to early Ramadanman work, in fact), strumming rhythms, tropical, clip-clop beats and mellifluous melodic patterns. Rolling along with ease, the musical narrative is woven with care and attention to detail, focusing in on glitchy moments, before moving on to more pulsating passages, which thrive on the intrinsic movement of the piece. It’s a fascinating journey.
But then, all of a sudden, we are plunged into “Kaleidoscope” which sends us into a parallel universe where the Warp style intentions laid out in their battleplan become more obvious as fluid rhythms, quirky textured SFX and driving energy transcend all. The psychedelic sensibility becomes more and more engulfing as the track continues, with swirling synths, a velvety bassline and enticing groove taking over. Finishing up with Lynx & Hellrazor’s remix of “Pocket Calculator”, we are brought abruptly back to reality by the terse, crunchy beats which punctuate an otherwise synth-laden soundscape. A disorientating vocal snatch adds that air of mystique to the track, with fidgeting beats dancing around seductively. It’s that same experimental naughtiness that we’ve seen before in Lynx tracks such as “Disco Dodo” and more recently “Chess Funk”, but now, collaborating with Hellrazor he explores this at a different tempo and in doing so, cements the release as must for all discerning electronic music fans.
Having sprung into our collective consciousness after releases on Black Acre and Hemlock only last year, Fantastic Mr Fox is back with his first release of 2010 – a double pack 10” on the aforementioned Bristol based imprint Black Acre. The Wolverhampton based producer, real name Stephen Gomburg, has caused quite a stir in recent months, having remixed Untold’s “Yukon”, Zed Bias’s “Two Sides” and also appeared on a split 12” with hotly tipped R&S signing Pariah. In addition to this the wily fox has also been collaborating with Jamie Smith from The xx and even toured with the band across the US in September this year. Now releasing the follow up to his Sketches EP, Fantastic Mr Fox brings us four fresh new cuts in his Evelyn EP.
Starting with the eponymous track of the EP, the gently thumping drum kicks and anxious squeaking which comes to define the intro are deftly chopped up Mount Kimbie-style with cooing vox and clacking woodblock beats. Not one to rest on his laurels, Fantastic Mr Fox develops these elements in the main part of the track, interspersing them with jiving rhythms and woozy, stabbing chords. Moving into the second track of the EP, “Fool Me” is a sombre affair with mournful and faint atmospherics woven around a lowly thudding b-line. Building the textures into a tapping, densely layered tune, it’s a stark contrast to the next track, “Over”, which is a more restrained, stripped back number. Stepping rhythms drag luxuriously over anguished vocals and that same dull throb of melancholia which the EP seems to be steeped in. “Sepia Song”, the final track of the EP, brings together all the sentiments explored elsewhere, with dribbling ripples of SFX, hollow clunking beats, swirling future garage sounds, all soaked in the sepia tones of the title. A formidable follow up to Sketches.
Camden based producer Blue Daisy first grabbed the attention of Mary Anne Hobbs and other key members of the UK bass music fraternity with his 2009 Strings Detached EP, which created a dystopian landcsape that instantly brought to mind the work of Burial, while tracks like “Hunterz” carried a futuristic swagger that inevitably drew comparisons with Flying Lotus.
Following a recent hookup with Brainfeeder cutie Tokimonsta, Blue Daisy turns to vocalist Anneka for a fresh 12″ on Black Acre. Title track “Raindrops” comes in like a cross between Massive Attack and the aforementioned Burial, with Anneka’s ethereal vocals echoing within a subterranean crackle. The more upbeat, almost tribal percussion on “Blood Petal Roses” soon becomes overpowered by a dread-like atmospherics – intense stuff.
Hugely talented Spanish producer John Talabot gets on the remix, bringing in some lush piano chords and giving the vocals an angelic slant on “Raindrops”, before a house beat kicks in to give the track some dancefloor sheen. Indeed this beat, which comes in and out of the equation over the track’s seven minute duration, is the only real concession to dancefloor customs: this is an EP made with headphone consumption very much in mind. Planet Mu’s Sunken Foal then rounds off the package with a downtempo reimagination of “Blood Petal Roses”, which blossoms into a wonderfully twangy, off kilter freakout towards the end.
A fellow traveller alongside the likes of Dark Sky, Rustie, Vaccine, Fantastic Mr Fox and Blue Daisy, 18-year old Lithuanian producer, Brokenchord has been pushing some serious buttons with his unique blend of dubstep, hip-hop, funky and garage with a light dusting of R&B sprinkled over the top. It will come as no surprise, then, that there is a place for the young producer over at Black Acre Records. The Bluestar EP, in essence, is somewhat of a mongrel in musical terms; robust yet disjointed, melodic yet melancholy, it incorporates a myriad of references, hovering around genres, but not staying still for too long. But, much like the rest of the output from the Black Acre camp, it works. Curiouser and curiouser…
“Bluestar”, the title track of the EP, kicks off with hollow, coconut clapping beats, a throbbing b-line and haunting synths swooshing back and forth like waves on a distant shore. Wailing vocals blend in to the atmospherics, in a haze of watercolour bliss – a little nod to Guido perhaps. “With Tsunami”, in stark contrast, gets started with a build up of shuffling, ADHD-befuddled rhythms ringing with energy and irritable impatience. It’s a brilliant piece – very unique and unusual. Next up, is the dark soldier of the EP, “Lowe”, with its morphing, murky tones and thunderous, rippling bass. Undulating with vociferous fury against the encroaching background noise, the impending breakdown leads us into a lighter, airier section, with synths bouncing off one another like rays of light. Absolutely superb, and very poignant too, as the next track is entitled “Run In To The Light” – an altogether more ambient cut, with a radiating warm hum underpinning the various sonic bleeps, clips and taps which punctuate it like a well constructed sentence before it moves in to a moodier finale.
Review: Belinda Rowse
Blue Daisy is one of those artists you can’t quite put a finger on. Granted, he makes some lovely, hip-hop tinged electronica, but the comparisons to Flying Lotus are both lazy and premature. Besides, Blue Daisy – real name Kwesi Darko – is already paving his own singular path. Drawing inspiration from his personal experiences, the environment and the streets of his beloved Camden, he makes lovingly crafted beats, richly textured and deeply atmospheric. We caught up with him to discuss summer festivals, his upcoming album and why he deliberately eschews making club music.