Category Archives: music

Mixworthy

Ape Delay Remixes

Last year I did a couple of remixes for my friends ollo from their lovely retro album Ape Delay. I picked a couple of tracks and ended up with the following…

Some other people did some awesome remixes too, so listen to them all, and maybe download and donate some money. And check out the original album.

And after all that, there’s more of my stuff on Soundcloud.

Muzak update

In my Latest Muzak I neglected another recent album…

John Talabot: Fin

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This is a slightly older one, dating from early 2012, but I only picked it up recently. It’s intelligent slow-ish house with a smooth euro groove, a bit of tasteful female vocal, and lush production. The opening track is an excellent slow burn groover, but the standout for me is the second track Destiny with Pional on vocals.

Audio appendix

If you care about such things, I’ve moved my blog over to a self-hosted WordPress site. All went smoothly, including the importing of all the content from Posterous. Lovely. Very impressed. Should have done it years ago. Then I needed to get an on-page audio player. After a few attempts, I ended up with MP3-jPlayer, which not only starts in HTML5 and degrades into native players or even (ugh) Flash, but provides some decent styling options as well.

Latest muzak

Layo & Bushwacka!: Rising and Falling

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More stripped-back and focused on deeper tech-house than previous releases. Moody, with some darker bits, and a couple of vocal tracks. Superb production, often danceable, all excellent. My favourite from the last few months, and I’m not done listening to it yet.

Deadbeat: Eight

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This seems more of a collection of tracks than a coherent album, comprising (unsurprisingly) eight atmospheric dubstep tracks, with more emphasis on the dub than the techno. It’s not as accessible as Drawn & Quartered from 2011, so it’s taking me some time to get into it. My vote is still out.

Chymera: Death by Misadventure

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Melodic tech-house from May 2012. Not much to say. Very listenable, with some jazz, blues, and soul influences. A bit of vocals here and there too. Nice.

Photek: Ku:Palm

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I like Photek but this is a patchy release. There are some good tracks (Pyramid) but also a few that just don’t fit with the post-d&b bass-heavy vibe where I think he does his best stuff. Personally, I’d like to see more of his delicately restrained anger. We have plenty to be angry about.

Brian Eno: Lux

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The master returns with more impressionist ambience, again on Warp Records. Read the interview with Laurie Anderson on the background to it, and creativity in general. A suitable backdrop for a rainy afternoon’s contemplation of one’s infinitesimally small place in the universe.

Max Cooper

Max

I seem to need regular fixes of Max Cooper’s organic deep tech-house right now. Fortunately he posts free mixes and live sets regularly to SoundCloud so new material is never far away. I even have an IFTTT workflow to notify me of new tracks. Yay, cloud.

Solitude

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Ambient techno is not dead. Solitude (UK) does regular “mixtapes” to Soundcloud with plenty of lie-on-the-floor-with-headphones mixes called “5am mix” and so on. It’s mostly ambient dubstep; Burial is a favourite inclusion.

More muzak

It’s been a while since the last reviews, so herewith some musical recommendations from the last six months, with links to Beatport…

ASC: The Gradient Project

ASC has a drum&bass background but has headed more recently into techno territory. This is a 3-track EP of deep house and techno that works nicely but doesn’t particularly have any stand-out themes or motifs. More muzak than active listening.

Method One: Symbol #5

However, on the same label is this release from Method One: a four-track EP of what I would call deep dubtech. Love it. Lots of atmosphere with distinctive touches. Track 3 is a stand-out of lush dubby tech.

ollo: Ape Delay

70s/80s analogue synths and rhythms is the theme of local act ollo. Quirky, melodic, and slightly melancholy, this is their best yet. Friends of mine, and so they let me attempt a couple of remixes that will see the light of day sometime.

SCSI-9: Metamorphosis

High-quality deep lounge tech-house (lounge-tech?) from the Russians. Some with vocals, all with groove.

Various artists: Commercial Suicide

Drum. Bass. A chocolate box of soft and hard centres including artists such as Calibre, Klute, Seba, and Dom & Roland. Turn it up.

Various artists: Elektrax Recordings: (Best of 2011)

From DJ Hi-Shock’s flourishing techno label this is classic dark and edgy 4-4 techno. Best listened to loud and pumped in a dark underground club. I make do with headphones and my eyes closed, but it’s not quite the same.

John Tejada: Parabolas

Bleepy, smooth electro, tech-house, and electronica from a prolific and experienced guy. You know what to expect.

Lone: Galaxy Garden

I like classifying things, but I struggle with this stuff from Lone and friends. Not clubby enough to be house, not 4-4 enough to be techno, not precise enough to be tech-house, not bassy enough to be to d&b, not smooth enough to be lounge. My closest label would be jazzy electronica, but not in a naff way. Think Ian O’Brien, older 4 Hero, and Blasta. Bright and sparkly, keeps moving, with warm major 7th pads everywhere.

Flashbacks

A couple of older tracks re-discovered. Best appreciated in full, with video.

Nanoscope

Nanostudio for iPad and iPhone is the best thing for portable
music-making since Bhaji’s Loops on the Palm five years ago. It gets
away from pattern-based song generation apps like Tabletop and Rhythm
Studio
, which although lovely and fun toys, still make hard work of
joining instrument and drum patterns into a decent track. Their history
lies in 80s sequencers and drum machines, and after the misty eyes have
cleared, we remind ourselves that we’re in a new world of fancy new touch
screens and UI and can transcend historical limitations. On that line,
Garage Band is very impressive but the instrument UIs seem to count
more for folks than the sheer sonic potential that I’m looking for.

sequencer

With Nanostudio on iPad and iPhone, and Nanosync on the Mac to upload
samples and download the tracks, I’m ready to do some creative battle.
Serious creativity requires discipline, which for me means deadlines and
constraints, so my Linchpin-style plan is this: finish one short track
every week, and ship it to the appropriately-titled Nanoscope blog.

The initial rules are:

  • The track must be created and mastered on Nanostudio, any version, either
    on iPad or iPhone

  • Tracks must be no more than three minutes long. Sketches, vignettes,
    impressions, not epics.

  • Any genre, any samples, any sounds, any bpm.

  • A track must be posted each week by the end of Monday, local (Melbourne)
    time

  • Tracks will be named after one of the newest colour schemes on kuler

Short tracks align better with our attention deficit culture. It also means
I can explore more, place a number of smaller bets, and see what pays off.
And, let’s face it, if I don’t have much time, I can quickly throw any old
shit together and call it a conceptual sketch.

There might be some other arbitrary rules or random elements I come up with
over time to enhance the creative process and keep it interesting. And at
some point I’ll stop doing this. We’ll have that discussion then.

The first track is up, just to grease the wheels.

On remixing

<p>I&#39;ve been entering remix contests over the last couple of years for fun and challenge, definitely not profit. I take my role as remixer to turn someone else&#39;s track into a collaboration, admittedly in a one-way direction. I try and put a distinctive spin on their track while maintaining respect for the original. It is a creative challenge and a technical one.</p> <p>The creative challenge is to find what resonates in the source track, and to weave something new out of if, whether in the same style, or even into a radically different style. In this process I can&#39;t help but inject my own musical beliefs and preferences. As in writing original compositions I&#39;m sometimes being disciplined in targeting a particular sound or genre (dubstep, electronica...), and at other times I let the track evolve more organically and be more open about what is acceptable. Sometimes I add more compositional elements to the original, at other times I leave some out, to focus on others.</p> <p>Like most creative processes there are iterative phases of exploring followed by phases of evaluation and stripping back what isn&#39;t working. What makes a remix different from an original composition is that you are compelled to work within the constraints of the source material, and we know that constraints are generally good for creativity.</p> <p>The technical challenge is to deliver a well-engineered audio product. I&#39;m less producer than composer, but being a home artist you have to do both, and a remix demands more of the former. Production is both science and art: technically and creatively developing a sound that is both differentiated <em>and</em> listenable. It&#39;s a critical layer in the creative process: it can make a track. Fortunately, my tools of choice—<a href="http://www.ableton.com/">Ableton Live</a> and a selection of plugins—provide endless options for audio manipulation deep into the night.</p> <p>It&#39;s encouraging when it works. A <a href="http://soundcloud.com/cyjet/home-video-i-can-make-you-20">recent remix</a> got an honourable mention and with it the opportunity to release a track on the label. Whether that happens or not, it&#39;s positive feedback. In the meantime I continue writing and remixing stuff. I can&#39;t not.</p> 

Latest muzak

Early impressions and musings on some recent musical acquisitions, largely triggered by Beatport’s latest series of sales. Thank you Beatport, I was getting stale, but my, I’ve got a lot to listen to. So, let’s begin.

Planetary Assault Systems: The Messenger

The latest incoming from Luke Slater is a mix of ambient and repetitive dark quirky techno, but not as hard as some previous outings. It’s rhythm-heavy and achieves this focus by rarely using a bass line, something I noticed only belatedly from his 7th Plain releases. There is subtle depth here that will emerge from repeated listenings.

Blu Mar Ten: Love is the Devil

The cliche of “long-awaited release” is apt for this one, on the back of Natural History from 2009. While it’s all drum&bass, they have a unique sound that comes from both top-notch production, and intelligent song-writing, and pushes them into overlapping space with techno, electronica, and progressive house. Having said that, while it sounds great, I’m not feeling much yet. I’m wondering if it’s had all the emotion polished out of it.

The Black Dog: Liber Dogma

While Black Dog releases over the last couple of years have been moody beat-driven electronica, this is real techno with a dance-floor focus, with a more stripped back sound, simpler sounds and effects, and less atmospherics. I’m assuming this stuff would work really well at an assertive volume through a wicked sound system, so I should crank it up to get the best out of it.

Brian Eno: Small Craft on a Milk Sea

I’ve been a bit slow getting hold of this 2010 release on Warp. Eno is an effing legend, and this album shows why. It’s an audio journey from delicate piano through angry beats, clever electronica, prog rock, and big dark ambience. Sit back and just go with it. As an aside, if you like the delicate ambient piano, go and find a copy of the sublime 1984 Budd/Eno/Lanois release The Pearl.

Biosphere: N-Plants

Inspired by Japan’s nuclear energy program, before Fukushima, and now made even more resonant. This is lush gentle electronica, with a moody edge like most of Geir’s work, and is what looks like his first full-length (well, 50 minutes) since Cirque in 2007, but with more bass and beats this time around. Nice.

Deadbeat: Drawn & Quartered

This is early 90s Future Sound of London brought forward twenty years, so you know I’m going to like it. Just five long tracks (all over ten minutes) of beats, samples, effects, reverb somewhere between dub, dubstep, and dubtech. Genius. And has it really been seventeen years since FSOL’s Lifeforms? Fuck, where has my life gone.

Extrawelt: In Aufruhr

Back to 2011 Hamburg with the reliable tech-house of Extrawelt. Lots of 4-4 goodness, and I detect a definite nod to techno pioneers 808 State. Maybe track 9 (808slate) is a giveaway, although I’d say it’s the least 808 State-like track on there. Similar to their last album Schöne Neue Extrawelt but perhaps less technical; more feel. Das macht spaß, ja?

Bola: Shapes

This is a re-release of 3×12″ records from 2000/2001 and sits somewhere between Soup and Fyuti in date but is more experimental in style than both. Darker, more complex, and less accessible, but still definitely a Bola sound.

Mihai Popoviciu: The Unexpected Truth

After all that dark complex techno shit I was also wanting some more straight-up deep tech-house, and Mihai from Russia did the trick. A deep sexy 4-4 workout with texture, good for both dancefloor and hanging out.

Gui Boratto: III

Another bloke with strong tech-house credentials, but I dunno, this is getting serious. A bit more intelligent and experimental; less dance-able than previous single material like No Turning Back. I like it so far, but it’s more than I was expecting. Track 10 The Third is a definite star but then I’m a sucker for a warm pad.

Calibre: Condition

Drum. Bass. Liquid, apparently, whatever that is. Either way, this is tight, quality d&b with punch, groove, and edge, and, now that I compare them side-by-side, I reckon it’s a more satisfying album than Blu Mar Ten’s latest from above. Good luck to him, I hope he goes far.

Gravious: Junction City EP

This is labelled dubstep, but in my book it’s less dubby than housey. In fact, what might have been called dub house when this guy was growing up. The man does credit some quality old-school artists like FSOL, Boards, Aphex, and Bukem, and it shows through in his tracks at times. This is a 29-minute 5-track EP with some great production and punch. Aside from some aggravated arpeggiator assault and a couple of dodgy vocal samples, it pretty much nails it.

Plaid: Scintilli

No surprises here. Plaid doing what Plaid do best. Fucking clever clogs, both of them. Get a Masters degree, you’ll need it to get into this.

 

More muzak

Some more muzakal musings in catch-up mode…

Environments The Future Sound of London: Environments (2007), Environments II (2008), and Environments 3 (2010)
This is largely previously unreleased stuff from the FSOL and Amorphous Androgynous heyday of the early 90s. On the same trip as Lifeforms and Tales of Ephedrina: loads of exotic samples, beats and basslines, and lush reverb-drenched ambience. This definitely works for me, but there is plenty more stuff from the archives available for sale on their site if these still doesn’t satisfy your craving. Only for the fans.
Either way, just sit back and watch the Lifeforms video.
Available for purchase on their site.
Kryptic Minds: Can’t Sleep (2011)
Dark, muted, but civilised dubstep album from this popular pair. As opposed to the screaming bass-driven mayhem the kids are jumping up and down to these days. This has plenty of space, sub bass, and some slight menace, like an abandoned warehouse at night. These guys work it over very smoothly. Even a couple of vocal tracks.
Discogs entry. Listen to track one and the title track featuring Alys Be.
Actraiser: Losing You (EP) (2010)
A nice little three-track release of dubtech and tribal house on the same label as The Faun. Definite echoes of FSOL in the mood and progressions, so I like. This is a upbeat start to the day.
Snippets on Youtube here.
Shed: The Traveller (2010)
This is less traditional, more experimental dubstep, with strong input from the electronica, techno, and d&b relatives, but still with the sub bass and reverb that makes the genre. Released on the reliable German Ostgut Tonlabel, there are some shorter tracks, so works well with your attention span issues.
Check it out before buying. Promo video for the title track here.
Various Artists: Supakonfekt (2010)
Free German style house and tech house compilation. It’s a decent collection of styles and tracks. Download from the Supafeed netlabel. 
For happy days.

Genres

<p class="p1">The up-to-date list of music styles, from <a href="http://www.beatport.com/">Beatport</a>&#39;s list of genres…</p> <ul class="ul1"> <li class="li1">Breaks</li> <li class="li1">Chill Out</li> <li class="li1">Deep House</li> <li class="li1">Drum &amp; Bass</li> <li class="li1">Dubstep</li> <li class="li1">Electro House</li> <li class="li1">Electronica</li> <li class="li1">Funk/R&amp;B</li> <li class="li1">Hard Dance</li> <li class="li1">Hardcore/Hard Techno</li> <li class="li1">Hip-Hop</li> <li class="li1">House</li> <li class="li1">Indie Dance/Nu Disco</li> <li class="li1">Minimal</li> <li class="li1">Pop/Rock</li> <li class="li1">Progressive House</li> <li class="li1">Psy-Trance</li> <li class="li1">Reggae/Dub</li> <li class="li1">Tech House</li> </ul> <p class="p1">If you don&#39;t know what some of these are, you&#39;re not keeping up. Like you care.</p>

Recent muzak

The latest listenings…

Cover image Pariah: Safehouses EP (2010)
Progressive dubstep, this EP (from R&S, remember them?) has elements of house, d&b, and electronica that conspire in a good way. Confusingly, Pariah is not to be confused with the other Pariah, who used to hang out with Bukem. Discogs link
Cover image Underworld: Barking (2010)
Reviewed loads elsewhere. It’s Underworld doing what they do, with some production assistance to give a slightly fresh edge. Easily digested. Sing along in the car. Safe for your friends. Discogs link
Cover image Porcupine Tree: The Incident (2009)
Yes, prog rock. One of Steven Wilson’s band is a keyboardists’ keyboardist: Richard Barbieri, and so out of respect I give them a listen. I think Deadwing is a better album, this one drags a little. Fancy time signatures, light and shade, clever guitar, and deep-felt lyrics are par for the course. Best track is the single, Time Flies. Drummer Gavin Harrison is one of the best too. Rock on.Discogs link
Cover image Technasia: Central (2010)
Tech-house lite. Pleasant enough. Music for coding. Discogs link
Cover image Phaeleh: Fallen Light (2010)
Intelligent, sometimes delicate dubstep, also verging on the “progressive”, with subtle vocal samples and tech-house influence. Discogs link

Cover image Loscil: Endless Falls (2010)
On a strong tip from Alastair, no regrets with this one. As the cover suggests, deep moody electronica for indulgent listening. Discogs link
Cover image Sensual Physics: Boundary of Set (2010)
High-quality tech-house. This guy has form. Discogs link
Cover image Tycho: Past is Prologue (2006)
It’s Boards of Canada all over again but without the darker side. Lo-fi, gentle tinkliness with a bit of quirk. Rainy afternoons with a good book. Discogs link
Cover image V/A: New Blood (Med School 2010)
Still digesting this lot. Mainly dark, dubby, d&b-influenced electronica, from new artists on the Hospital Records offshoot label. If this is the future of electronica, I’m in. Discogs link