remote_ thoughts | contemporary electronic

Achrid – Achrid – Benbecula – CD

Posted in Reviews: Electronic by remotethoughts on February 22, 2006

Scottish label Benbecula has had a great reputation throughout the last few years and having released albums by Christ, Frog Pocket, Reverbaphon and many more, they’ve now turned their attention to a sister project in the form of the Minerals series.

I haven’t heard the first couple of releases but I’m pleased to have aquired a copy of this quite frankly brilliant CD by Achrid which marks a real departure from Benbecula’s more tradiotional Electronica sound.

Achrid is the duo of Michael Wright and Tadanae Fujimura and, although I’ve not come across the name before, this could well be a name to look out for in the future on the strength of this release.

Their self titled, 9-track CD is a collection of live recordings and studio improvisations and it strikes a beautiful balance between the more abstract, glitchy end of Electronica with a sublimely melodic undercurrent that keeps the tracks focused and on course.

From the beginning to the end the tracks are crisp, clean and lovingly rendered with a strong attention to detail and a keen ear for hypnotic sound design and whether they use resonant high frequencies and speaker rumbling sub-bass or looping textures, you can tell a lot of love’s gone into the production.

For the most part their tracks are gently rhythmic – that is there are no obvious structures. However they occasionally let rip with a spine tingling moment of pure beat trickery and there are actually several cuts that develop into a 4/4 style… not your average 4/4, of course. This is more akin to an artist like Jan Jelinek or Sutekh with layers of sound intertwined into the mix.

There are nods to Berlin and even Detroit at times, but more than anything you get the feeling that Raster Noton or 12k are labels that the artists admire and the way they have combined these influences is remarkable – they pay homage without ever blatantly copying.

The development of each of the tracks is very clever and changes enough to keep you interested at all times, without chopping and changing too much… you get ample time to enjoy each passage before it mutates into something new. Because of this it’s the longer tracks that really stand out and form the main focus of most of the CD – the shorter tracks act as abstract interludes before the main performance, if you like.

This is a prime example of the more accessible end of the experimental Electronica sound and the melding of hissy, static samples and sounds, intense moments of white noise and more traditionally deep chords and textures is very pleasing indeed.

Well played to Benbecula for doing something a bit different and props to the artists themselves for producing an album of such quality. My guess is we’re going to be hearing more from these guys.


RF – Views Of Distant Towns – Plop – CD

Posted in Reviews: Electronic by remotethoughts on February 11, 2006

There comes a time when every label wants to expand itself… exceed its original programming if you will. Tokyo’s Plop imprint has been releasing wonderful Electronica for the past few years to critical acclaim and they’ve released everything from minimalistic, dubbed-out sounds to a much more organic, guitar based style via sweet toybox music. Now, it’s time for a new sound and something of a departure as Plop unveil their latest release… RF’s ‘Views Of Distant Towns’.

I’ve always had a slightly skeptical view of electronic Pop music as I feel that generally it’s a compromise too far. This album, however, has completely reinvigorated my idea of just how superb the blend of songs, accessible music and electronics can be.

RF is San Francisco’s Ryan Francesconi, a multi-instrumentalist and media artist and with this album he’s constructed one of the warmest and most likeable albums you’re likely to hear this year. Using guitars, horns, strings, live drums and a subtle palette of electronics he delivers an intricate and beautifully arranged series of songs from the heart.

Melancholy seems to be the overriding influence – whether it’s in the soaring strings or Sunday afternoon trumpet sounds – and he openly references Haruki Murakami’s wonderful ‘Wind-up Bird Chronicle’ as a source of inspiration, particularly regarding the loneliness and stasis that lead character Toru feels in certain passages of the book (and as an aside, if you haven’t read it, you really should as it’s magnificent).

The feeling of watching the world passing by is incredibly strong and, for me at least, his use of electronic sounds embedded in the songs really emphasises that… on one hand you have recognisable song structures and tunes, yet lurking in the background is a deep layer of glitch and abstractness which takes a while to come to the surface. Once you lock into it though the whole album takes on a different feeling… still atmospheric but possibly even more melacholic.

Ryan’s use of vocals is inspired. Not only does he use them to convey a tangible idea through the lyrics, he also uses them as an instrument in themsleves… breathy, sultry female vocals that sit just a little bit back in the mix and add another layer of intrigue. There are quite a few Japanese vocals as well and yet it doesn’t feel impenetrable… you almost understand what’s being said on a subconscious level.

To give reference points for this album would be tough. You could say Post-Rock in general, because of some of the structures, and yet I think a more pertinent comparison would be Sweden’s Tape as the combination of organic and electronic is in a similar ballpark, albeit with it’s own sound. Combine that with Fenton’s guitar manipulations, Keiichi Sugimoto’s work and the vocals of Piana, and you’ve got a fair idea of how this sits in the grand scheme of things.

The real beauty of this album is the sheer depth. You’ll keep on coming back to it and discovering new and very pleasureable highlights time after time. I would suggest that you’ll be listening to this all year.

Simply gorgeous.

Sébastien Roux – Songs – 12k – CD

Posted in Reviews: Minimalist by remotethoughts on February 9, 2006

Without a shadow of doubt, 12k continues to lead the field in the world of minimalistic Electronica. With beautiful artwork, exemplary music and immaculate overall presentation, you know you’re getting the finest every time you excitedly open one of their releases.

The 36th releases comes from the mind and equipment of Sébastien Roux and a band of players including Stéphane Garry, Laurent Vaissiere and Leonzio Cherubini, who provide the original instrumentation that Roux has then manipulated and processed.

‘Songs’ is comprised of 7 tracks that each have a unique feeling. They take the form of an instrument (or in some cases two or three) that provide the basis for the work and have then been rearranged, reconstructed and generally tinkered with until they take on an entirely new guise. So, for example, ‘The Prepared Piano Song’ does, indeed, feature a piano, but this is combined with various other sound sources, both organic and electronic, to form an engaging variation on the theme. Other instruments include cello, piano, harp, Metallophone, electric guitar and drums and that’s what gives the CD such variety.

The real beauty of this album is the simplicity with which it actually works. The idea of ‘songs’ is turned upside down yet, strangely, some of the pieces do retain an almost traditional element to them and you can clearly hear Roux’s Folk, Pop, Electronica, and Musique Concrete influences throughout.

Whether you’re treated to skittering, high-frequency sounds, barely-there natural sounding recordings and chaotic rushes of white noise, or simply a lovingly played guitar or piano riff, there’s a lovely coherence to the sounds that’s at once lively, yet extremely soothing. You’ll find yourself jumping a little when he hits you with one of those moments of extreme noise but they never last for long and, as ever with this form of music, it punctuates the work beautifully and adds a clearly defined sense of form and space.

The arrangements work on a very ‘free’ level and, although it borders on abstract a fair amount of the time, there’s still a lovely flow to the work which keeps you engaged from the very beginning right to the end.

Ambient, dreamy, challenging, noisy and beguiling – these are all words that amply describe this album and as is always the case with both the label and the artist you should seek out and enjoy this wonderful piece of work.

A remarkable voyage.

Miller + Fiam – Modern Romance – Expanding – CD

Posted in Reviews: Electronic by remotethoughts on February 4, 2006

Expanding are certainly starting the year off in style here with two fabulous releases with the second coming from the excellent pairing of Dave Miller and Harry Hohnen.

This is not the first time the duo have worked together as they’ve released tracks on both Background and Meupe over the last couple of years, although this is their first full length work.

On the strength of ‘Modern Romance’ they could well find themsleves being called to work as a duo on a more regular basis as this is simply a gorgeous piece of work which comes across as a real team effort.

Miller’s more minimalistic work for Background has always had a strong sense of groove and funk and he’s managed to imbue this CD with a surprising amount of that feeling considering it’s mostly a downbeat oraganic / electronic piece of work. There are very subtle 4/4 beats lurking in the mix which work beautifully with the live sounding guitars, pianos and even drums.

Light, airy arrangements give it springy step and although the tracks are low-key, there’s a feeling of robustness to the sounds and an overall jazzy tinge that keeps things fresh and lively. There’s an element of glitch going on (particularly in the percussion) but, once again, this takes a backseat compared to the general melodic nature of the productions and whilst it has a slightly ‘free’ feeling that borders on abstract at times, it’s all amazingly cohesive and tight.

Influences are varied and you can really hear Post-Rock, Folk, minimal Electronica and more all shining through in the mix. This is a deep work with layers that only become apparent as you spend more time with it… I for one would suggest it’s well worth spending that time with as it’s an incredibly satisfying piece of work.

Once again, Expanding proves that it’s a label that’s not afraid to release something a little bit different.


Richard Chartier – Tracing – Non Visual Objects – CD

Posted in Reviews: Minimalist by remotethoughts on February 4, 2006

Non Visual Objects has something of an impressive pedigree as far as releases go. Kicking off with a CD by sound artist Steve Roden, the aim of this particular imprint became very clear early on – to provide experimental works of electronic musical art with distinctive packaging and a varied, often challenging repertoire of artists.

Following that, NVO released works by Richard Garet, Dale Lloyd, Jos Smolders, Ubeboet, Roel Meelkop and label co-owner Heribert Friedl. Now, for the 5th release we are treated to an exceptionally beautiful piece of work by Line and 3particles head Richard Chartier who, by my calculations, is on absolutely top form at the moment.

Well known for his wonderfully difficult sound-works using microtones, fractured electronics and a minimally minimal style which borders on being barely perceptible at times, Chartier is an experimentalist with an incredibly finely tuned sense of space and form.

‘Tracing’ continues his recent (and hopefully ongoing) trend for producing incredibly deep and melancholy drone-based works. For other examples see ‘Set Or Performance’ or ‘Retrieval 1-5’. In my opinion, this style really suits him and brings a truly emotional side to his sound right to the fore whilst still challenging the listener and pushing towards the edges of the genre.

The piece starts off in a typical Chartier fashion with a long, tantalizingly slow build up which, initially at least, sits so far back in the mix that it’s more of a subconscious sound – a slowly evolving, rumbling bass drone layered under a deeply resonant and very atmospheric texture which fades in and out like the ebb and flow of the sea.

The piece continues in that vein throughout using subtle filtering and resonance to amazing effect… the droning sounds almost implying the feeling of wind blowing across stark landscapes… the feeling of being stranded, alone, in space with monolithic, impossibly large spacecraft drifting past you… utter desolation, yet with a surprising amount of warmth in the actual tones he’s used. Volumes change radically from time to time and whilst one moment you’re hardly aware of anything, the next it’s a mind-filling noise which is very moving indeed.

Then, 41 minutes later, you find yourself in another space and frame of mind having been treated to one of the most hypnotic soundscapes you’re liable to hear, wondering to yourself where those 41 minutes went… how they could have passed so quickly.

That’s the beauty of it – you always want to go back to hear it again and in a similar way to John Hudak’s ‘Room With Sky’ on Spekk, you get the feeling that’s exactly what the artist wanted.

Chartier has created a pristine work here and, for me, is conceivably one of his most exquisite works to date.

Bravo to both label and artist.

Modern Institute – Excellent Swimmer – Expanding – CD

Posted in Uncategorized by remotethoughts on February 4, 2006

With this release from Modern Institute Expanding is living up to its name in a big way. The label has always provided a certain type of quality and you always know that you’re getting high class Electronica, subtly beautiful artwork and a level of production that is enviable. This album, however, sees them moving away from the pure, crunchy, melodic sound that has been their staple and into uncharted territories of sonic discovery.

Modern Institute is mainly the work of Teho Teardo along with Martina Beroni on Cello and a guest appearance from Rothko’s Mark Beazley on ‘Post.ino’ and essentially this is the most organic, live sounding album that Expanding have released. That’s not to say there are no electronics because, as you might expect, there are. Everything has been put together with love, care and attention and there’s a lovely amount of manipulation and processing going on throughout – in fact just enough to spice things up without suffocating the instrumentation.

Guitars, Rhodes piano, the aforementioned Cello and Beazley’s bass all combine to make a warm, almost traditional sounding album that utilises ambient music, Folk, classical and Electronica to convey a serene type of melancholy.

Every track has a beautiful touch that will keep you coming back for more and the sheer strength of the production is enough to keep you satisfied for a long time to come. With a selection of dreamy, downbeat and mid-paced tracks there’s not a wasted moment here with tracks such as ‘Not A Word Manni’ delivering a more acoustic hit whilst elsewhere there are more pure electronic tracks. Combine that with beatless pieces entirely composed of layers of texture and processed tones and you’ve got an amazingly varied piece of work.

Considering the popularity of labels such as Plop, Hapna and Kranky, this album is perfectly positioned to appeal to fans of all of them and I for one would applaud the label for pushing the boundaries of their sound.

The first release from Expanding for 2006 is a superb piece of work and judging by this it could well be a great year for them and their artists.

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