Posts Tagged ‘electronica’

Waxing Electric with Wax Stag

November 5, 2009

wax stag

Wax Stag – Wax Stag (People in the Sky Records)

The multi-talented Rob Lee has recently dropped his first album as Wax Stag. It is an impressive debut of rich analog synths and old-skoool IDM beats reminiscent of Warp releases from the late 90’s. Lee also moonlight’s as Clark’s drummer for his live shows, and plays bass for the hip and much-hyped Friendly Fires.

But Wax Stag is all Lee’s—his sonic and bleepy love child, and it’s infectious as hell.

Part of the album’s charm is how it makes me think of Plaid and CiM and Solvent and early Autechre and Aphex as Polygon Window. It even reminds me of Metro Area at times . . . there’s a warmth in his heavily-layered synth lines that you just don’t hear any more unless you go back and rediscover the early Warp, Rephlex, and Skam releases that made you love electronic music in the first place. Plus, his music is a lot of fun. I hate being one of those head-bobbers on the streetcar in the mornings, but it’s hard to keep your head still when blasting this one in your Grado’s. A definite must-hear before the year is out.

Also, his remix of Bibio’s track “Sugarette” is a brilliant re-interpretation and a highlight on Bibio’s just released “The Apple and the Tooth”.

Listen, enjoy, repeat.

Losing my memory with Seek Magic

October 23, 2009

seek magic

Memory Tapes – Seek Magic (Rough Trade)

When Dayve Hawk appeared in the blogosphere last fall posting free tracks and mixes under the names Weird Tapes and Memory Cassette, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to his website by my friend Mat. With Weird Tapes, Hawk crafts sample-heavy party music, where he uses familiar samples that trigger vague memories of drunken parties from the past. The bottom line: the stuff is fun and catered towards uninhibited booty shaking. And at the same time, he was also putting out tracks under his Memory Cassette moniker, a more pop-oriented project of dreamy songs with a strong 80’s bent.

And now the seemingly prolific Hawk has released “Seek Magic” using the name Memory Tapes — where he weds the best aspects of his earlier projects with refreshingly awesome results. Instead of building tracks with layers of sound, the songs on this album are filled with catchy hooks, choruses, and refrains, in proper pop song fashion. Guitar licks reminiscent of New Order, and analogue synths suggestive of Aphex Twin are meshed together to smashing effect in “Green Knight” and “Bicycle”. The choruses of “Stop Talking” and “Graphics” are so infectious you’ll find yourself singing them for days. Album closer “Run Out” is a perfect come down track, it’s emotional and harmonious, and could easily be stretched out to ten minutes in length and I’d still want to play it over again.

“Seek Magic” is a first-class debut. Compelling, melodic, fun, nostalgic, and steadily climbing ever higher on my top ten for 2009. The bonus track “Treeship” is also a beautiful addendum to the album. Twenty minutes of chilled out ambience. Do yourself a favour and check out Memory Tapes now, as well as, all of Hawk’s nom de guerres.

Peace.

Lusine – A Certain Distance

October 18, 2009

lusine

Jeff McIlwain aka Lusine recently released his new long player “A Certain Distance” on Ghostly International. Fans of his Detroit tinged IDM have been waiting for this since “Serial Hodgepodge” came out in 2004. While McIlwain also released “Language Barrier” under his Lusine ICL moniker in 2007, it’s his beat-oriented material that his fans were itching for, rather than his more stripped down atmospherics, and he does not disappoint with “A Certain Distance”.

I am a fan of all his stuff, ambient or 4/4, and for me “A Certain Distance” seems a perfect blend of McIlwain’s musical aesthetic. An album of deep, emotional IDM which rewards a little more with each listen. Some critics seem wary to accept the album’s slightly more “pop” sensibility, wishing it was colder or more clinical, unable to embrace the addition of female vocals to a few of the tracks, but I find the cut-up and skewed vocals a welcome addition. They add a warm feel to Lusine’s clipped beats and deep synth lines. The track “Gravity” with its stuttering voice and plunging bass drops is definitely a highlight. “Crowded Room” follows and gives fans close to six minutes of sprawling Detroit techno bliss, sure to be a part of many a DJ set this year.

I think Lusine is one of electronic music’s underrated darlings, and I don’t care if “A Certain Distance” is perhaps a bit more accessible than “Serial Hodgepodge”, because I am happy to see McIlwain grow as an artist and continue to refine his sound(s). Seeing him this spring as part of Ghostly’s 10th Anniversary Bash was one of the year’s highlights for me – and even though his set was short and he played a bit too early in the night he still absolutely killed it. His music is melodic and rich and worthy of both headphones and the dance floor. “A Certain Distance” has been on constant rotation for me since its release, and no doubt will be, for months to come.

Check it and wreck it.

Floating Points

September 24, 2009

floating points

Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points is having a good year. Hailing from London, this upstart producer mixes the best of dubstep, Detroit techno, hip-hop and soul into one hell of a pleasant sound. I can’t help but think of him as the Theo Parrish for the 2010’s. Because just like Theo’s music, you cannot help but wanna get up and dance. Shepherd’s track “Love Me Like This” from earlier this summer is one of my favourite mixes of the year. I defy you to listen to it and not shake your ass, ’tis near impossible…

Floating Points’ sound is kinda hard to pin down as he changes and grows with each new release. His newest EP “Vacuum” is spacey soul house with beautiful bass drops that again recall the glory days of Detroit’s renaissance. While his 12 inch “J&W Beat” is a stab at Burial-inflected two step, and both the tracks are dark and heady burners, probably some of my favourite tracks of the genre released this year. Shepherd has skills. Whereas Planet Mu labelmate, Falty DL sounds pedestrian attempting the same thing, Floating Points really sounds fresh and new and deep and groovy. I give him three thumbs up.

2010 could be an even bigger year for him. Full length debut maybe? Floating Points is one to watch out for and one to check out immediately.

Dig it.

The Field – Yesterday and Today (Kompakt)

September 1, 2009

the field

When Axel Willner aka The Field appeared out of the ether in 2007 with the excellent “From Here We Go Sublime”, the album spun relentlessly in my apartment for months. There was something really hypnotic about his looped tech-ambience that sounded fresh and new at a time when techno was starting to sound a bit samey and lackluster. Two years blinked by and he returned with “Yesterday and Today” in the spring of this year. I immediately grabbed it, but for some reason was hesitant to listen to it. For some reason felt it wouldn’t be able to hold up to “Sublime”. But in the last few weeks I’ve finally gotten into it, and now think it an amazing follow up. In fact, I think it’s better. A more fully realized vision of his musical aesthetic.

The second track “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” slows the tempo down and adds lush vocals in the mix to fantastic effect, and then “Leave It” comes next — a sprawling and emotive track of 4/4 techno bliss — and when the bass hook drops at the 3 minute mark, I am fucking sold. Wooh. One of my fave songs of the summer for sure. I’ve listened to it so many times in the last few weeks it’s embarrassing. I’m sure my neighbours wanna kill me, but I can’t get enough. The title track is also fantastic and features John Stanier from Battles adding some live drums to the mix, which I think really works. Altogether, this is an excellent album and right now is looking like a top ten of the year.

Love it.

Mathieu & Deupree – Transcriptions (Spekk 2009)

August 7, 2009

mathieu/deupree

Transcriptions is a collaborative work from ambient artists Stephan Mathieu and Taylor Deupree. The album contains music that is warm, decayed, and emotive. Sounding a bit like William Basinski’s “Disintegration Loops” series, “Transcriptions” is an album for reading, sleeping, writing, and meditating. Being a big fan of the genre, this comes as a welcome addition to my growing collection of ambient electronica, and sounds like one of the most pleasant and pensive releases of the year.

My initial fascination with the album had to do with how it was recorded. Stephan Mathieu began collecting mechanical gramophones, wax-cylinders, and early 78’s from the turn of the century. Once he’d gathered enough stock material he recorded the cylinders and 78’s via two portable gramophones directly into his computer, and while doing so he rendered and digitally kissed the sweeping orchestral ambience. Next Taylor Deupree added acoustic plucks and strums and vintage synthesizer to act as a perfect counterpart to Mathieu’s wash of sound.

The overall result is an enveloping 48 minute melodic surge that can only be described as gorgeous.

transcriptions gear

Check it.

DJ Sprinkles – Midtown 120 Blues

July 17, 2009

midtown 120 blues cover

I had never heard of veteran artist and producer DJ Sprinkles (real name Terre Thaemlitz) until earlier this year, when I was turned on to his/her album courtesy of Resident Advisor. And ever since, “Midtown 120 Blues” has been in fairly constant rotation on my stereo. This is house music that conjures up the classic sounds of Chicago and Detroit and is very rewarding after repeated listens. Like “Endtroducing” is so much more than just a hip-hop album, so is “Midtown 120 Blues” more than just deep house. There’s soul here, techno, nostalgia, and rich ambience. The monologues and voice snippets are interesting and introspective and deal with the politics of music and identity. Tracks “Ball’r (Madonna Free Zone)” and “House Music is Controllable Desire You Can Own” are highlights that play just as well in a party setting as they do in a horizontal one. Sexy, sad, deep, smart, and emotional music. Smoooove.

Edit: Read a fantastic interview with Terre Thaemlitz here courtesy of Little White Earbuds.

Flying Lotus at Tattoo Rock Parlour in Toronto

July 10, 2009

flylo

9 July 2009

Warp Records budding superstar Flying Lotus (nee Steven Ellison) dropped his cyber-slick sounds on a crunked and over-capacity crowd last night in Toronto. And hot damn was it ever good. We walked in to opener mymanhenri playing Dilla and Doom and setting the mood just right. FlyLo hit the stage next and within seconds sized-up the crowd he had in front of him. “These peeps ain’t just drunk, they’re all super fucking baked,” was no doubt his assessment, because he immediately pressed the “drug” button on his groove box and the bass just cooked the crowd and made us scream and jump and grin and shake our booties. It was infectious and trippy, full of reverb and snare pops and bad ass bass rumbles and soul.

I gotta admit the sound system at Tattoo is pretty awesome and FlyLo’s set was so crisp it sparkled. There was even a crowd surfer at one point. I think Flying Lotus was genuinely amazed at how gonzo the crowd was going all around him. He was smiling and laughing the whole set and brought the energy and rhythm to an absolutely feverish pitch. He crescendoed with some subtle Michael Jackson nods from “Off the Wall” that sounded as fresh as ever under his care. A fitting farewell to the King of Pop and a musical highlight of the year for mmmlele.

Ahh…wait for it…mazing.

Bibio (Warp Records)

June 19, 2009

WARP177

Stephen Wilkinson (aka Bibio) will release his first album for the historic Warp imprint on this year’s summer solstice. This is exciting not just for Wilkinson as a musician (making the jump from the respectable Mush label to one of electronica’s most revered and genre-defining), but also for us the listeners. Why you ask? Because Bibio’s sound has taken quite a jump as well.

His 2005 debut “Fi” and 2006’s “Hand-Cranked” received constant rotation in my waking hours of those years, but his recent release “Vignetting the Compost” was a bit of a disappointment. For all intents and purposes “Vignetting” is a fine album, but it sounds kind of uninspired to me. That’s why “Ambivalence Avenue” is so thrilling. It’s Bibio 2.0 – the production is amped, the song writing more structured and deliberate, and his style has gone from hushed morningtronica to an excellent balance of fractured beats à la Flying Lotus to tender folk à la Crosby, Stills and Nash. And it really works.

The album’s release on the first day of summer is fitting, and so far is in the running for tops of the season. Wilkinson may have very well carved a niche for himself here, stepping out of the Boards of Canada shadow that helped launch his career, but at the same time pigeon-holed his sound. “Ambivalence Avenue” is a sunny yet thoughtful album, perfect for drives on winding highways, impromptu kitchen parties, campfires, picnics, and stoned afternoon bike rides.

Dig it. Welcome summer 2009.

Edit: “The Apple and The Tooth” remix album comes out in mid-November courtesy of Warp Records. It’s a great re-interpretation of choice tracks from “Ambivalence”, as well as, four new songs from the man himself. Nice! It’s got remixes from Wax Stag, Gentleman Losers, Leatherette, Lone, Eskmo, and more! A really tight postscript for Bibio’s sound in 2009. Check it and wreck it!

apple & the tooth

Luke Hess – Light in the Dark

June 12, 2009

luke hess

Luke Hess has just released his proper debut “Light in the Dark” on the fantastic Echochord imprint. Having cut his teeth in Detroit and refined his sound over the last few years working with the likes of Omar-S and other emerging dub techno producers, Hess’ debut pays homage to the Detroit minimalism of Theorem and Plastikman and Basic Channel’s deep techno of the late 90’s. And although at times some tracks sound eerily close to the artists he’s paying respect to, overall I think the album totally works.

This is 4/4 techno that is dance-floor oriented, but it’s also heady and reflective. It almost feels as if Hess is trying to recreate the glory days of Detroit techno, before DEMF, when sketchy warehouse parties and the City Club were the places to go to drop pills and sweat and dance and just lose it to the craziest, darkest, bass-heavy, four on the floor techno you ever heard. And unfortunately, I think this is where the album falters. It doesn’t go far enough. Yes, the production is crisp and technically some of the finest dub techno I’ve heard since “The Coldest Season”, but by looking so deeply into the past, Hess never really moves his sound forward. If anything “Light in the Dark” reveals his potential, an artist with skill and style, but one who still needs to carve out his own niche, and continue to refine his own sound.

Luke Hess is one to watch out for in the coming years, and his debut album is definitely worth checking out. Peace.

Edit: Also check out the Ignite the Dark Remixes (Mikkel Metal, cv313, and Marko Furstenberg). Dynomite!