remote_ thoughts | contemporary electronic

Pub – Liltmor – Ampoule – CD

Posted in Uncategorized by remotethoughts on August 29, 2005

They don’t come along very often, but, my word, when they do, they are worth every single second, minute, hour and month of the wait.

A mouth-watering new CD album from Scotland’s finest, Pub, on his own Ampoule label is a treat to be savoured and this 20 track piece of work will surely go down as one of his best.

Ever since ‘Do You Ever Regret Pantomime?’ surfaced a few years ago, the anticipation of anything new from Pub has been palpable, and whilst the EP ‘Surgery / Cokeshandy’ was a handy stopgap to keep us on our toes, this is truly the moment we’ve been longing for.

And does it disappoint? Not in any way at all. In fact it’s conceivably his best music to date, although that may sit awkwardly with those who still worship the epic ‘Summer’ CD on Vertical Form, or the incredible ‘Single’ – again, on Ampoule.

‘Liltmor’ has a more complete and rounded sound than its predecessors and it certainly covers more ground; from the wistful, Chain Reaction styled rhythmic soundscapes of ‘Motobere’, to more overtly ‘Electronica’ tracks such as ‘Fun Hopper’, you get a sense of an artist who is most happy when mixing it up and shifting styles halfway through a track. Just listen to the way the stunning piano refrain of ‘Luki Luki’ flows in from a seemingly unrelated piece of heavily rhythmic, abstract texture… truly a heartbreakingly beautiful piece of music.

There’s a muted, almost classical feel to the tracks that gives them an instant distance and fragile beauty. Isolation (both geographically and personally, it would seem) are the themes here and for anyone who has ever been lonely or desperate, there’s a good chance that these pieces of music will remind you that you really are never alone… there’s someone else out there who understands.

And that’s always been one of Pub’s strengths; His ability to make music that’s incredibly personal sounding… a link between the listener and the musician that lasts for the entire album… almost as if he’s written it specifically for you.

Best listened to from beginning to end in one sitting, it’s hard not to get caught up in the wistful, melancholy sounds of one of the UK’s most underground, yet celebrated artists.

A dangerously good album.


Filfla – Frame – Plop – CD

Posted in Uncategorized by remotethoughts on August 22, 2005

Another Plop CD? So soon after the Fenton ‘Pup’ album? I wouldn’t say Plop was exactly prolific, but when they get on a roll they really do get stuck into their release schedule! Lucky for us though, as this is yet another wonderful album of light, playful and friendly organic Electronica of the highest calibre.

Keiichi Sugimoto is one of those artists who busily works away under a number of aliases and, if you’re a fan of this genre, the chances are you will have come across his work as either Minamo (with Yuichiro Iwashita, Namiko Sasamoto and Tetsuro Yasunaga), Fourcolor or Fonica. He clearly spends a great deal of time writing music and the result of this is a tangible mastery of a sound he has made his own.

Filfla follows in the footsteps of his other monikers by using a guitar base for most of the tracks and then electronically tweaking and manipulating the sounds he constructs to form a very pleasing and warm hybrid.

It can be choppy and glitchy at times, which forms an interesting counterpoint to the generally melodic nature of the music, but it never gets too much and remains lively and perky without getting bogged down in overly intricate programming.

The intro track ‘Dx_00’ guides you into the album with a 40 second slice of drifting noise complete with ghostly voices in the background – very much like standing in Kyoto train station and being lulled by the constant announcements and general hubbub of a busy railway environment.

This slips easily into ‘Dx (Distance)’ which sets out the stall for the rest of the musical content of the CD. A subtle high pitched whine works in the recesses of the track to add challenge to the otherwise beautiful nature of the looped chords and melodies which shimmy into the music halfway through. This could easily be a Minamo track in disguise and has the same purity of guitar playing that makes all of Sugimoto’s other work such a joy.

‘”Backyard’ provides the first really rhythmic sounds with yet another uplifting piece of organic-sounding music. It’s the way the plucked strings work with the synthetic sounds, bleeps and melodies that really move it along, and when the shuffly, broken beat arrives it really punctuates the chilled out sounds with a lovely funkiness – not something you can say about a lot of experimental Electronica!

‘Stanza’ is comprised of a deep chord stab with multiple effects and a super stereo feel which wouldn’t be out of place on an Echocord release. It’s then joined by some guitar melodies and a series of Detroit-esque bleeps that could almost be vintage Derrick May before finishing up as pretty much purely a guitar track… a mixture of styles that works like a dream.

‘Epic’ and ‘Nuf’ are the most low-key tracks on the album and use a gorgeous minimal tone to convey their own unique warmth and beauty. ‘Nuf’ in particular has a lullaby quality that’s soothing and soporific.

Upbeat track ‘Coy’ will certainly wake you up from your hypnosis with its quirky and fun feel. Not quite danceable, but certainly one of the most traditional sounding cuts on the album. It has plenty of musical guitar playing and some great Techno-style electronic sounds that are used to give the track a real groove – albeit a subtle one. A lovely tune indeed.

‘Learn’ and ‘Azure’ finish up with more manipulations and reversed guitar notes layered over deliciously warm chord structures to provide a perfect end to a simply marvellous album.

If you’re suffering from the Summer blues (and I know I am because it’s chucking it down with rain outside and it’s August!) this really is a splendid antidote with its light and summery feel.

Props to Keiichi for yet another brilliant album and another reason to admire the sterling work he does for the minimalist electronic scene.


Various – Small Melodies – Spekk – CD

Posted in Uncategorized by remotethoughts on August 17, 2005

Look at the artwork. Just take a good look at how crisp, how beautiful and how thoughtful it is. Stylized, minimalist and just plain delightful… much like the label it’s released on.

Spekk is run out of Tokyo by Nao Sugimoto, otherwise known as Mondii and a member of Rdl, and is an avenue specifically created for him to explore the otherworldly sounds of contemporary digital minimalism.

Let’s get one thing straight though, ‘Small Melodies’ is a CD that’s considerably more friendly and warm than the previous releases and whilst it doesn’t so much mark a departure in style, it certainly has a more accessible feel than the ultra-minimal works from artists such as William Basinski, Richard Chartier, John Hudak, Boca Raton and Taylor Deupree – with the exception, maybe, of Andrey Kiritchenko’s superb ‘True Delusions’.

It takes a broad look at the micro-genre of melodic, organic Electronic Minimalism and features such a superb track-listing – by artists both known and not so well known – that one feels it’s going to be special even before listening to it… and it really is.

The opening track by the Ultra Milkmaids is a suitably grand beginning with its spatial stereo stabs and flexible programming. It leads you along by building on the chord structures to create an almost symphonic, mid-range drone of sound that’s beautifully melodic without losing any of its edge. Slivers of rhythm cut through and whispers of ghostly percussion become clear. It’s a fantastic intro that hints to the listener of the delights that are coming their way.

Sogar and Tomoyoshi Date provide the following two tracks and, although on the surface they share a similar sound, that of a light and airy organic / electronic hybrid, the tracks are distinctly different. Sogar’s is a more hypnotic, looped style with layers of melodic found-sounds melding into one delightful piece. Micro-textures flow in the background with little captured samples providing punctuation to the flowing chords. Tomoyoshi paints a more overtly melodic picture with a playful, melodic sound that’s not a million miles away from some of Plop’s (another Nao Sugimoto-related label) output. Lustrous strings and reversed instruments create a swathe of fairytale sound.

Leave it to Taylor Deupree to show why he’s easily one of the leading lights of the contemporary digital minimalist scene. His contribution ‘For Nicholas’ is a textbook track that uses incredibly detailed sound design and a cleverly reduced style to convey warmth, depth and emotion through isolationism.

Raster Noton and List’s Hervé Boghossian lends himself to organic manipulations and his previous guitar work has been provoking thoughts and enchanting listeners for some time. His track ‘The Latter’ has a more sculptural feel than some of his other material, but it works so well. The closest I can get to describing it is to compare it to the backing noise of a Seefeel record (‘Time to Find Me’ springs immediately to mind). The swell and flow is incredibly fluid and immerses the listener fully. Guitars are still the source of the sound, but here they take on another dimension.

Following this is a trio of, what I would describe as, pure Japanese Electronica. Aen, Naph and Tape all deliver deeply melodic, organically laced tracks that are delicate, fragile, achingly melancholic and feature some wonderful background found-sounds. Regardless of whether they are Japanese artists or not, they’ve truly found a natural home here and their contributions are immaculate and, again, not too far removed from the Plop label.

Long-standing sound artist Oren Ambarchi is completely at home with his track ‘Thirsty Boots’; a low-key, drone based piece of work that has a gentle touch and an oriental feel. The bell-like tones are as soothing as kneeling at a Shinto shrine and as deep as Lake Biwa.

Fenton (aka Dan Abrams, aka Shuttle358) shouldn’t need much introduction and the track he has produced for this album is very pretty indeed. Guitars are the key element and he has a way of plucking the strings that avoids the clichés of Folk and Country and stays considerably deeper and more hypnotic. Gentle manipulation of the background sounds lends it a slightly eerie feel with a high-pitched whine working its way into the listeners head. Ultimately, the track is friendly and easygoing… surely not a bad thing?

With some subtle filtering and construction, Rdl give us ‘Finale’ a hypnotic, soothing track that uses gentle layering to build the track into a morphing, swaying soundtrack. A soundtrack to what? Your imagination will easily conjure up images that sit with this wonderful piece of music. Re-occurring motifs and loops provide points of reference for the listener to hold onto as the track changes over time becoming almost hymn-like and spiritual by the end. Delicious.

Apestaartje’s Anderegg once more proves that he can manipulate organic sounds and create lush noisescapes with the best of them. This bears some resemblance to Boghossian’s track earlier on the CD, but has a slightly lighter air and an insistent high frequency sound that lurks in the background keeping the listener attuned at all times.

Under his Mondii moniker, Nao Sugimoto gives us one of the highlights of the album with the divine ‘Between’ – a shimmering, shining example of how to coax melody out of machines. Forest floors, sunlight through trees, twinkling stars… all of these things spring readily to mind when engaging with this fascinatingly detailed work. It comes across as effortless, though, and the gentle guitar plucking that makes up the sonic backdrop add a touch of humanity to an otherwise other-worldly piece of work. Haunting.

Finally, Stephan Mathieu sees the CD out with a soft and glistening track that’s full of grace, depth and melody, but always seems to hold itself back – never getting over-the-top or too sweet and sickly – leaving the listener wanting more and more.

‘Small Melodies’ is the kind of album that reaffirms ones faith in music and should easily charm enough people to make this a firm favourite of the year and another supremely confident release from Spekk.

Quite simply superb.

Remote_ – Celestion EP – Meanwhile – 12"

Posted in Uncategorized by remotethoughts on August 11, 2005

I feel slightly disingenuous reviewing this record as it’s actually produced by me. Does it come across as cheap for me to talk about my own work? I hope not. I must admit though that I’m genuinely enthused by the fact that this record has been released and on a label that I really respect and like… that’s the icing on the cake.

Meanwhile has been around for about 18 months and has released 3 records so far. Pleasingly, they are all of an incredibly high standard and constitute a back catalogue of extreme quality.

Detroit and Berlin are the main reference points within the tracks from Murmur and Bovill and there’s a deep, minimalistic and very pure Techno feel throughout all of the records. 4/4 beats, vintage chord pads and strings, touches of melody and an old-yet-new sound combine to give a unique feel that’s considerably more interesting than pretty much all of the other Techno labels currently doing the rounds.

To have been asked to release an EP on such a label is a thrill and an honour and I just hope that this 12″ can emulate the underground success of the releases thus far.

The Celestion EP is a four track piece of work which kicks off with the title track, ‘Celestion [Edit]’, a dreamy, House-style Techno cut with a relentless build, a dubwise bassline and swathes of full sounding effect-drenched strings… at once shuffling and dancefloor orientated but with a simplicity and melodic nature that certain people have been calling a summer anthem (not sure which summer that would be but, hey…). It certainly has a Detroit-laced sound but there’s an offbeat, clicking percussion loop that gives it extra movement. An insistent track that never really lets you go.

Second track ‘Celestion [Sound Hacker Mix]’ is remixed in the finest of styles by the, as yet, unknown Sound Hacker. You’ll be hearing more of them in the near future and on the evidence of this track it’s not hard to see why. They’ve taken the leading elements of the original track and turned it into a jittery, skittering Electronica reworking with some dark, dense atmospherics and some wonderfully intricate rhythm programming. It’s fair to say that you can hear a bit of Monolake in there, sound wise, and certainly a hint of Autechre on the rhythms. Cunningly, though, they manage to sound completely unlike either of those artists. A stunning track.

‘A-Tonal’ kicks off the B-side with the most overtly Berlin influenced track. A metallic stab or two with freeform echoes and heavy reverb build slowly into a 4/4 Techno track that references Basic Channel, style-wise, but has its own feel overall. A big, bad dubby bassline completes the flava and keeps the track rolling along and the progression is simple, minimalistic but very hypnotic.

The last track is ‘Permafrost’ which, as the name suggests, is an icy cold piece of work. An aquatic sounding series of layers build into a dense, beatless drone with a truly alien feel. Again, there’s a nod to the Chain Reaction sound, but without referencing it completely.

So, that’s what it sounds like… Hopefully some people are going to like it… I must admit that I do (otherwise why would I have written it?) and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admitting that!

Fenton – Pup – Plop – CD

Posted in Uncategorized by remotethoughts on August 10, 2005

Dan Abrams is probably better know as Shuttle358 and, judging by the impact that his previous work for both 12k and Mille Plateaux has already had, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch of the imagination to describe him as a very influential figure within modern Electronica circles.

So, it was with a large degree of excitement that I opened up the package of this, his latest project, on the wonderful Japanese label Plop [which already has a high pedigree of releases from the likes of F.S. Blumm, Fonica, :Gel, Sora, Pola and more].

As expected this is everything you could possibly want from a Dan Abrams album and forms a natural and free-flowing follow-up to ‘Chessa’, released on 12k at the end of 2004. In fact, the last track of that album seems to hint at what lies ahead on ‘Pup’ and you’d be forgiven for thinking that they have come from the same recording session, so similar in concept are they.

Whereas the delicate ambient electronics of his previous work were very much the product of computers and hardware, the gently lilting tones of ‘Pup’ are decidedly organic in nature using, as they do, guitars for the most part and a luscious, lightly manipulated feel to add even more depth to the sounds. Every track here could easily be part of an overall theme and the subtle picking and playing of melodies is warm, friendly and very engaging from beginning to end.

There isn’t a wasted moment here and when it’s not providing deep soundscapes for you to bliss out to, there are tracks that have a structured, song-like quality that almost beg for a vocal interpretation… that would be to miss the point, however. This is instrumental music at heart and should, in my opinion, always remain so.

I’d go so far as to say that this is one of the highest points achieved thus far in the somewhat crowded field of ‘organic’ Electronica and has seen many repeated plays. And no doubt it will continue to do so for quite some time…

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