remote_ thoughts | contemporary electronic

Mnortham – Automnal 2003 – and/OAR

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Minimalist by remotethoughts on October 15, 2006

Mnortham - Automnal 2003 - and/OAR

Artist: Mnortham

Title: Automnal 2003

Label: and/OAR

Cat No.: AND/23

Format: CD – Limited Edition

And/OAR continues to impress me as a label with its varied, original and extremely high quality release and it’s clear that owner Dale Lloyd takes a great deal of care over every single release. As such it’s always a pleasure to hear a new CD from such a quality imprint and this release from Mnortham is absolutely sublime.

The three tracks that make up the 55 minute CD are audio snapshots of three different locations in time and reflect the ideas and feelings the artist had whilst relocating around the globe thirteen times in the just two years, culminating in his arrival back home in Autumn 2003.

Prepare to be soothed and engaged by the work on offer here as there’s a tangible sense of difference between the pieces, even though the approach is roughly the same each time with processing of location recordings and found sounds forming the main structures.

‘Glacier Du Trient, Switzerland/France’ is a light, breezy, yet discordant piece that lifts you up with its high end drone sounds and insistent clicks in the background which force you to pay attention. It’s hard tune it out and you’ll find yourself listening to it in depth and discovering more and more resonant frequencies existing than you imagined at first.

‘Eagle Creek, Indianapolis’ has a heavier, more oppressive tone and bears a similarity at times to some of the work of Wolfgang Voigt under his Gas moniker. Combined with the sound of cicadas in the background the organic tone that drives the track forward gives you a palpable sense of a wide open space inhabited by creatures of the night.

The final piece ‘Ils Grosbois, Montreal’ is the most haunting of the works here. A mid/high-frequency drone that works with discordant layers resonates at just the right level to create a sense of dislocation, gradually adding in subtle static sounds and scratchy, gritty tones into the background. Again this give the track a real sense of movement, driving it ever forward.

And it’s this sense of moving and never settling in one place that permeates the whole CD… a feeling of transience captured for eternity on a piece of encoded plastic. That’s the magic of music and it’s certainly where the magic of this CD comes from. A delightful, beautiful and very personal piece of work.

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Lucky & Easy – Hookahs – Ampoule

Posted in Reviews: Electronic by remotethoughts on October 15, 2006

Lucky & Easy - Hookahs

Artist: Lucky & Easy

Title: Hookahs

Label: Ampoule

Cat No.: AMPCDMS03

Format: CD

The big question for me has always been ‘Is Lucky & Easy actually Pub in disguise?’ A question that’s never been answered to my complete satisfaction unfortunately… not that it matters a damn, of course, when the music on offer is this fine.

Lucky & Easy have generally provided a more classic ‘Electronica’ sound than Pub’s deeper, more Berlin orientated work and ‘Hookahs’ is as varied and entertaining as you could possibly imagine an album being. Their (his?) penchant for dreamy melody is very much on show from the very first moments of the CD and is never far away from the centre of things.

Lively, crunchy beats form a cracking backbone for the sounds to weave a magical spell over the top using all the tricks of the trade that higher profile artists such as Plaid have done for years. To be fair, for me anyway, Lucky & Easy are as good as Plaid when they deliver those chord sequences and touches of traditional melody. Plus the cleverly programmed beats give it a life of its own with what seems to be off-time rhythms that soon settle into a real groove.

It doesn’t stop there though as L & E are clearly devotees of the Detroit sound and they embellish quite a few of their tracks with a Motor City lushness that speaks of pure machine funk. ‘Kiss It Better’ is a prime example of this with some seriously hectic percussion and 4/4 beat that’s got more in common with Derrick May or B12 than Black Dog, whilst ‘Night Rainbows’ could have come straight out of 1993.

And these tracks are when they show up the Pub connection (if there is one…) with clattering, beautifully ever-changing arrangements that are far more complicated than they seem. In fact it’s not unusual for the tracks to go through two or three major changes throughout their duration staring out with an ambient flavour that soon turns into rhythmic and melodic and becomes powerfully driven even further forward by the beats. There’s even an acid track, ‘Chippoke’, that rolls along with a 4/4 beat and an almost House-style feel.

It’s this sense of depth and variety that make this wonderful album shine through and if you’re a fan of good electronic music in any way at all I seriously suggest you hunt a copy of this down without any delay

Monostation – Alchemy 6: Phosphor – Limit Switch – 3" CD

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Organic by remotethoughts on October 15, 2006

Monostation - Alchemy 6: Phosphor - Limit Switch

Artist: Monostation

Title: Alchemy 6: Phosphor

Label: Limit Switch

Cat No.: LIMIT80MMCD:06

Format: 3″ CDr – Edition of 100 copies

I thought it was about time that I reviewed a Monostation station release as this is, in fact, their seventh release of 2006 and forms the sixth part of their ongoing ‘Alchemy’ series and the first release since their superb ‘Greyscale EP’ for London’s Smallfish imprint.

This London-based duo has been experimenting in the realms of processed sound for some time and the Alchemy series is a natural exploration of the resulting tracks. Thus far the music has been predominantly based around the sounds of processed guitars, but with this release they’ve used a variety of tones to generate the incredible swathes of sound that make up this CD.

Phosphor itself is a slowly evolving and very beautiful track that ebbs and flows with an enchanting resonance that fills your mind quite beautifully.There’s an exquisite noisiness to the background drone that drags you in whilst the flowing overlaid chord has a movement and delicacy all its own. If you heard this on Kranky, you’d be blown away… let’s just put it that way.

The second track, ‘Firebird’, is generated using piano sounds and has a less obviously drone-based style, instead choosing to use a hypnotic chord motif that repeats and evolves throughout. Dripping in reverb it puts me in mind of Seefeel way back in the day and you can almost tangibly hear the dub bassline that could sit underneath (good idea for a remix?). When the searing synth strings make their way into the mix it instantly becomes a majestic piece of music that gives a nod to the Cocteau Twins but keeps it more minimal than they did and allows the sheer simplicity of the music to drift over you like a wave.

Monostation seem to be ploughing their own furrow at the moment and I, for one, am glad that they’re still single-mindedly delivering such beautiful and evocative music. Long may it continue.

Fourcolor – Letter Of Sounds – 12k

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Organic by remotethoughts on October 15, 2006

Fourcolor - Letter Of Sounds

Artist: Fourcolor

Title: Letter Of Sounds

Label: 12k

Cat No.: 12K1038

Format: CD

It’s fair to say, I think, that Keiichi Sugimoto is not only prolific, but something of a master of his genre of music as well. It doesn’t seem to matter which of his guises he’s working under, he always just seems to get it right. Whether he’s producing as Fonica, Filfla or as part of four-piece act Minamo, there’s a subtlety and very Japanese beauty to everything he does.

To find that the new 12k release is from his Fourcolor project is great news indeed as ‘Air Curtain’, his previous CD for Taylor Deupree’s label, was a delicious slice of low-key, melodic electronic lushness. Similarly, ‘Letter Of Sounds’ is a work that seems infinitely delicate, yet more than robust enough to stand the test of time.

By opening with the sheer exuberance of ‘02’ it quickly becomes apparent that we’re dealing with a serious album. His use of organically-based sounds which are then constructed into shimmering layers of electronic music is enchanting and, once again, we find him using the sound of guitar harmonics to punctuate his tracks.

Simple, charming chord structures form the basis for a lot of the work here and they have a pleasingly old-school feel with just the right amount of Techno-style soul to keep the purists happy whilst injecting it more traditional instrument sounds. He never saturates the tracks though, and always gives the tones enough room to weave around the crisp rhythmic elements that creep in from time to time.

In fact there’s enough room on the second track ‘Rowboat’ to allow female Japanese vocalist Piana to breathe some lyrical life into the track. Her voice acts as a superbly fragile accompaniment and it’s great to see yet another artist who isn’t afraid to use the voice as yet another tool for creating sound, as opposed to relying on it for unnecessary and obvious emotional content.

When he picks up the tempo later into the album there’s an even greater hint of Techno that shines through. You get the sense that he’s a fan of the Motor City sound and some of the rigid structures and tight metronomic clicks definitely give a nod in that direction. He always adds in his unique melodic chords though and that’s the true strength – there’s always beauty – even when, as in ‘Leaves’, he adds an experimental leaning to the track… in this case a resonant and insistent test tine which gradually builds throughout the track.

Sugimoto should be treasured for his consistently excellent and charming work and this release will certainly go down as one of my favourites.

Chris Herbert – Mezzotint – Kranky

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Organic by remotethoughts on October 15, 2006

Chris Herbert - Mezzotint

Artist: Chris Herbert

Title: Mezzotint

Label: Kranky

Cat No.: KRANK101

Format: CD

When I first heard this album I was completely bowled over by its sheer beauty. Chris Herbert has provided, for me, one of the albums of the year without any question simply because he’s managed to blend Electronica, drones, organic texture and honesty into one simply marvellous CD. </span

Kranky’s a good label anyway… we all know that (well, I assume we do, anyway)… but the quality of their releases over the last 2 years has become so damn fine that I’m slightly worried that won’t be able to keep up this level of sheer momentum in the future. For now though I’m revelling in the fact that they keep releasing CDs of this calibre on a regular basis.

Herbert’s sound is immediate, yet subtle. The first time I heard its fuzzy textures I knew I was in love and yet it’s since become my most listened-to album of the year (thanks Last.fm for giving me a rough idea of what I’m actually tuning in to!). It’s rough around the edges, but I think that’s all part of it. Hints of distortion, a sound out of place here, a crunch there… that’s the charm of it. He doesn’t hide the fact that it’s not perfect and I for one would like to congratulate him for that. Too many artists are utterly obsessed with everything being exactly right and whilst that has its place I suppose, it’s good to know that people still do it the old fashioned way.

The layers of texture that he’s created are dreamy and intense and provide a scintillating ambient backdrop for the more rhythmic or melodic elements that drift into the mix. When it gets more rhythmic (and I use that term fairly loosely) it becomes ever-so-slightly reminiscent of Loscil getting stuck in the studio with Gas… yes, it’s that good.

Short interlude pieces link the main tracks together to form an engaging narrative throughout and the fact that they sound varied is testament to Herbert’s wonderful production technique.

Essentially you could compare this to several other artists – Gas, Tim Hecker, Loscil – but it’s because it comes across as a blend of them that it works so well. It’s an album of the year situation for me and I have to recommend you get yourself a copy of this as it’s just quite simply brilliant.

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