Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Bit of This, A Bit of That

Bit of a mixed bag today but we kick things off by heading straight for the jugular with a slab of relentless dancefloor dirt perfectly primed for darkened warehouse spaces. Having missed out on the first Stroboscopic Artifacts release, numbers two and three have definitely aroused my interest. The vinyl versions are limited to a pair of two tough dancefloor numbers but the digital releases also incorporate a pair of stripped down tools for the adventurous DJ to play around with. Xhin's Fixing The Error / Link came out back in November with Lucy and Ercolino's Gmork dropping a couple of weeks back. You can pick up the full Stroboscopic Artefacts catalog at Juno / Juno Download and I suggest you keep your eyes peeled for future releases too.

Xhin - Link // Stroboscopic Artefacts
Lucy & Ercolino - So The Nothing Grows Stronger (Dadub Tool) // Stroboscopic Artefacts

Following that fairly brutal assault from Xhin, it's time for something a little lighter. Harald Bjork is another name I've not heard of before but this is of little consequence though as the glitched up grooves and simple melodies of his Kranglan EP fit nicely into a small section of my record collection and work well for breaking up the more stripped back and dubby sounds I usually favour.

Harald Bjork - Skvaltan // Kranglan Broadcast buy

The Kranglan EP reminds me quite a bit of Border Community's output which is handy as they're the next camp to feature today. Luke Abbott's Whitebox Stereo came out at the back end of last year and, on the opening track in particular, harks back to the label's defining moment, The Sky Was Pink. The rest of the release is more varied and takes Luke's sounds in a variety of different directions including the deep electronica of Pavillion and the melodic experimentation of Musicbox Two. You can pick up a copy here.

The final track for today comes from a compilation put together for this year's Club Transmediale festival in Berlin. While I don't really know much about the festival, I can only assume that it features a fairly wide range of artists and styles as the compilation is pretty varied. While not everything on the compilation is my cup of tea there's some great tracks on there including cuts from Mount Kimbie & Scuba (albeit that these have featured on this blog previously) as well as this rather interesting little string piece from someone who's name I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce.

Hildur Gudnadottir - Erupting Light

However, the best thing about this compilation is surely that if you head on over to the nice folks at Zero " they are currently giving it away for free - be quick though as this is only until Feb 7th.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Breaking Through

Without wanting to get too hung up on genre classification, I can't help but feel that Boomkat's Dubstep / Grime / Funky category, under which it has filed Binary Sequence's debut EP, provides a rather inaccurate prejudice of what this release is going to sound like. Sure, the tracks contained within '66/31' exhibit dubstep rhythms and deep dubby atmospherics often associated with the techier side of the Dubstep genre but to me at least, the underlying feel is certainly more Electronica than Grime or Funky.

Anyhow, that aside, what matters here is the quality of the music on offer and this EP definitely pushes the right buttons for us. Across the three relatively short tracks featured on the release, Binary Sequence sets out his stall very nicely indeed, dishing up electronica that is certainly hard to pigeonhole and there's definitely a hybrid and very forward-thinking feel to this tidy little package.

The EP marks the first release on the new Dark Arx imprint, a label which describes itself as one which provides a home for artists on the fringes of the Dubstep/Bass/Techno scenes. To complement this debut release, the label has also released a pair of mixes; one from label boss Dark Arx and one from Binary Sequence himself. Both mixes provide an excellent blend of laid-back Dubstep / Electronica and if the quality of these podcasts and this debut EP are indicative of the standards we can expect from this crew's future output then they're definitely going to be an outfit to keep a keen eye on.

Binary Sequence - 66/31 // Dark Arx

The EP is out on vinyl & digital formats and can be picked up from the usual places including Juno.

You can download both promo mixes from Dark Arx's Soundcloud page.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Clearing The Decks

Today's post is an attempt to cover off some things I've been meaning to mention for weeks in the (perhaps unlikely) hope that I'll get back to posting about things that have only just been released.

Emptyset are an act I've been meaning to feature on these pages for a very long time indeed as I've been a big fan of their work ever since hearing their Isokon EP back in 2007. Their brand of stripped back techno minimalism really appeals to me and they are a classic example of how a small sound palette can be used to keep intrigue in a track's evolution as well as producing an overall sound that really fills the speakers. Over the course of three 12s for Future Days and Caravan, these boys delivered some very interesting cuts that work particularly well for slowing things right down in the thick of a mix and making the listener really tune into the skeletal sonic remains before things get cranked up again. Their debut long player dropped last year and I must admit that it caught me a little off guard initially as it's a lot less dancefloor than I was expecting. The eponymously titled release strips things back even further than their earlier work and becomes almost an experiment in sonic manipulation, focusing heavily on drones, bleeps and white noise all underpinned by lashings of bass. Despite, not really being a 'dancefloor' album, some of the cuts on offer here would no doubt cause devastating effect if placed into the right hands although looking for standout tracks is not really the way to approach this album as it's not the kind of release to dip ones toe into lightly as the immersive nature of the complete sonic package is where the real beauty lies.

You can check out the album in full over at Caravan's Multiverse page where the press release also provides some interesting notes on the concept behind the album. You can buy a copy of the release at the usual outlets including Boomkat.

You can also download a mix put together by the less famous half of the duo (the other being 30Hz / Ginz who will be well known to any dubstep aficionados) that takes a pleasant walk through techno minimalism picking up some house and dubstep en route.

Emptyset - DJ Mix (Nov '09)

If Emptyset's darkness is a little too much for you, then perhaps Lusine's latest long player is a little more up your street. As with his earlier work, A Certain Distance is a solid electronica outing but this time with a much poppier vibe than before. The overall result definitely makes for a very engaging listen and there's some great tracks on offer but on some of the vocal numbers (Twilight in particular) things stray too far into easy listening territory for my liking. Don't let this put you off though as all in all, this is a pretty decent album and well worthy of your attention - you can pick up a copy here.

Lusine - Operation Costs // Ghostly International

Rounding things off for today is a good bit of Detroit style techno. Not actually Detroit techno as such as the producer in question, Davor, hails from Croatia but it came out on Detroit's Matrix Records and certainly uses a Detroit-esque sound palette. Four version of Transitional Objects feature on the Transitional Objects Remixes package although there's only actually two remixes (Jolka and Area, neither of whom I've heard of previously) plus the original and a beatless version from Davor himself. For me it's definitely the beatless 'No Gravity' mix that's the pick of the bunch as the meandering synths, rising chord sequences and sci-fi FX unfold to deliver an intriguing and very rich tapestry that, as the title suggests, allows the listener to float along with the music.

Pick yourself up a copy at Juno.

Davor - Transitional Objects (No Gravity Mix) //Matrix Records

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Decade In Music: The Singles (Part Two)

For the final part of our decade review, we look at the pick of the singles from 2005-2009:

Although Electroclash died almost as quickly as it had arrived, Electro itself would go on to mix with House to give the genre exactly what it needed to see it into the 21st century. Around the middle of the Noughties, Electro House became the epitome of underground dancefloor cool and Germany was the breeding ground for a new set of labels to push forward, once again simply by looking back and combining sounds and patterns that had previously been largely isolated from one another. As with every good thing though it couldn’t last, but far from dying, Electro House transcended underground cool to become the dominant sound of commercial dance music in the latter part of the Noughties and with it, lost much of the innovation that made it special before it became the next soundtrack to sell cars to.

Dub became the next retro sound to be brought back into the mix and this time it was youth once again making it's presence felt on the electronic scene. Grime sensibilities and 2-step rhythms mashed together in bedroom studios across south London by producers barely out of school kickstarted the mighty force that has become Dubstep. Initially characterised by lashings of bowel-shattering bass underpinning sparse percussion and vocal accompaniment, the scene evolved over the years (and continues to do so) but for us, it's been the splintering of Dubstep that has provided perhaps the most interesting developments as it takes onboard sounds from genres as wide ranging as Electronica, House, Hip Hop and R & B.

Dubstep has also had an undeniable impact on techno, initially felt when the likes of Skull Disco combined their particular Dubstep brand with the metallic sounds of Basic Channel, resulting in crossover hits championed by the likes of Villalobos and later the Hardwax / Berghain camps. Dubby sounds now inundate techno releases right from the laid back 'listening' end of the scale through to the reverb-drenched sounds used to fill out tougher dancefloor cuts. As techno approaches its 25th birthday, it celebrates by taking on board the best bits of the past, and while the bpms have dropped considerably from their 90s peak, any loss in dancefloor energy has been replaced by cerebral music motivating heads and hearts as well as just limbs.

Top 100 Tracks of the Decade (Part 2: 2005-2009)

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Monday, January 11, 2010

A Decade In Music: The Singles (Part One)

The second part of our decade review focuses on the defining tracks from the last 10 years; again in terms of mine and Langer's personal tastes. Most of these were properly released as singles although a few of our selections were only ever released on LPs. We've selected a hundred tracks but are revealing the list in two parts splitting the decade into two five year chunks.

As with the album post, let us know your thoughts on the tracks we've criminally overlooked...and feel free to comment on any we've included which you think suck! Today's post covers the years 2000 - 2004.

At the end of the Nineties, Techno was stuck in a loop (Literally). Pounding drums and endless looped up riffs combined with hoover basslines were the order of the day. Something had to give. Thanks largely to one record, Techno rediscovered its melody and soul and reminded everyone why they had fallen in love with it in the first place. ‘Knights of the Jaguar’ by DJ Rolando was released in late ’99 by the militant stalwarts of the Techno scene, Underground Resistance. It’s effect was profound and it became a worldwide smash. We debated long and hard as to whether we should name this our record of the noughties as it soundtracked many a club night in the first half of the decade and to this day will send the crowd wild if dropped during a set. Ultimately we decided against this, opting instead to select one record from each half of the decade as depicted by the image used for each of the two posts.

One word could perhaps be used to sum up the Noughties… The word? Eighties. Never more so has retro influenced the fashion and musical output than the Eighties did over the last 10 years (particularly the first half). What goes around comes around and at the start of the decade electronic music was in need of a new injection of energy and ideas. Electronic music has always looked to the future for inspiration but in the noughties we looked to the past. The new injection came from some of the first incarnations of electronic music, namely Synth pop, Italo Disco and Electro. These old styles gave Techno and house a new edge in the form of Electroclash. For a short while Electroclash ruled dancefloors on both sides of the pond and produced a myriad of great tunes. But as with any scene based around a ‘fashionable’ sound it was never going to last. By 2003 it had burned out, leaving the fashionistas looking for the next big thing. Stepping into the void came the sound of early Eighties New York; Punk, Funk and Disco. One of the key labels of the decade, DFA records exploded onto everyone’s radar with James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem. ‘Losing my Edge’ neatly summing up in one record the feeling of the first generation of Ravers now losing out to the ‘New Kids’ but with the self satisfaction of knowing that it was never going to be as good as when they were kids back in day.

Top 100 Tracks of the Decade (Part 1: 2000-2004)

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

A Decade In Music: The Albums

Even though there's a good risk you're probably all sick of lists by now, we're about to hit you with some more as Langer and I have compiled our thoughts on the best releases the noughties had to offer. We're going to deliver this in 3 parts (hopefully with a significantly better posting frequency than we usually manage!) with today's covering our pick of the albums, mixes & compilations.

Our selections are based on personal tastes and wherever possible reflect the releases we both feel warrant a mention (we each had a few wildcards too for when we couldn't agree on an in/exclusion). The selections are largely based on things we still think sound great today rather than ones which we loved at the time but haven't aged so well - there are still a few that remain for nostalgic reasons though.

We've gone for an A-Z list rather than a top to bottom ranking as it would probably have taken us another 10 years to agree an exact running order otherwise! We're sure there'll be some great releases we've forgotten about or simply not heard and would love to get reader's views on your favourite releases of the last decade too so drop us your thoughts in the comments section.

Anyhow, on with the first installment:

Top 50 Albums Of The Decade:

Top 20 Mixes / Compilations Of The Decade:

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Monday, January 04, 2010

RAW's 2009 Roundup

If you were to track my record buying habits over the past 10 years, 2009 would have been a notable spike on the map but for all the wrong reasons. I bought far less records last year than in previous years due in part to having less time for visiting record stores but also due to spending more time listening to mixes than individual tracks due to the abundance of podcasts that seemed to spring up in 2009. The likes of Resident Advisor, mnmlssg's and FACT (to name but a few) were dishing out quality mixes with such regularity that I found myself almost addicted to listening to these offerings but at the same time also becoming swamped with the sheer number available that I still have a significant backlog to wade through. To me, and I'm sure many others, podcasts have become an important medium in electronic music and for this reason I've included them in my annual pick of the best mixes and compilations of the year.

Techno has been my foremost musical love for a long time now and I found myself sticking more and more to this genre throughout 2009. I agree with Langer's comments that a lot of producers are looking back towards the past and while new ideas are perhaps less obvious than they have been in previous years, the scene has reached a very healthy level of maturity and an abundance of exhilarating music continues to be produced. For me, the producer of the year was Ben Klock and while his releases weren't massively groundbreaking they were exceptionally solid and perfectly primed for dark warehouses spaces whilst still providing entertaining home listening - what more does one need? The other big powerhouse for me was Sandwell District through the excellent 12s they continued to unleash as well as the various DJ-related projects of many of its members.

The other main reason I spent less time listening to other's records was an attempt to spend more time writing my own stuff. On a personal production perspective, the highpoint of my year was performing my debut solo gig - something I hope to repeat on several occasions during 2010. The lowpoint was the long-awaited release of a compilation of which I had been told my debut release would be a part of, only for the record to come out and my track not to be on it (thanks Moodgadget - you suck!). However, just prior to year end, I managed to get signed to another label and my debut EP should be out around summer this year (more details later).

Anyhow, enough of my ramblings and on with my lists. Given my slightly sheltered nature this year, I'm sure there's a whole bunch of great stuff I've simply not heard but as I continue to wade through other end of year roundups and do some digging, I'm having great fun being educated.

Here's hoping 2010s another good one!

RAW's Top 30 Tracks Of 2009:
01 Ben Klock feat. Elif Bicer - Goodly Sin // Ostgut Ton
02 Millie & Andrea - Temper Tantrum // Daphne
03 Scuba - Speak // Naked Lunch
04 Kevin Gorman - Mikrowave 12 // Mikrowave
05 O/V/R - Interior // Blueprint
06 Burial & Four Tet - Moth // Text Records
07 Quantec - Halcyon // Echocord
08 Peter Van Hoesen - Attribute One // Time to Express
09 Levon Vincent - Late Night Jam // Ostgut Ton
10 Equalized - EQD002 // Equalized
11 Animal Collective - My Girls // Domino
12 Ben Klock - Subzero (Original + Sandwell District Mix) // Ostgut Ton
13 Pattern Repeat - Ofetriade (Original + Ben Klock Remix) // Echocord Colour
14 Joy Orbison - Hyph Mngo // Hotflush
15 Moderat - Rusty Nails (Original + Shackleton Remix) // Bpitch / Fifty Weapons
16 Moderat - Seamonkey //Bpitch Control
17 Mount Kimbie - Maybes // Hotflush
18 TVO - Aklo Cut With Saffron // Highpoint Lowlife
19 Decoside - Reload 3 // Eclipsemusic
20 Joker - Digidesign // Hyperdub
21 TVO - Dots & Hashes // Stuffrecords
22 STP - The Fall // Subsolo
23 Tigrics - Boko (Friskfisk Remix) // Highpoint Lowlife
24 Jus Wan - Submersive // Naked Lunch
25 Guido - Orchestral Lab // Punch Drunk
26 Redshape - 2010 EP // Delsin
27 Ike Release - Misdeeds // Infrasonics
28 Unknown - RUR4 // RUR
29 Gold Panda - Mayuri // Various Production
30 CLP - Dip Shorty (Unsportmanslike Remix) // Shitkatapult

RAW's Top 10 Albums Of 2009:
01 Ben Klock - One // Ostgut Ton
02 Redshape - The Dance Paradox // Delsin
03 Martyn - Great Lengths // 3024
04 Falty DL - Love is a Liability // Planet Mu
05 Moderat - Moderat // Bpitch Control
06 LZ Kruzer - Manhood & Electronics // Uncharted Audio
07 Emptyset - Emptyset // Caravan
08 Sinner DC - Crystallized // Ai Records
09 Point B - Suicide Beauty Spot // Combat Recordings
10 Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion // Domino

RAW's Top 10 Mixes / Compilations Of 2009:
1 Sandwell District - RA177 // Resident Advisor
2 Omar S - Fabric 45 // Fabric
3 TVO - FACT Mix 102 // FACT Magazine
4 SCB - SSGMX37 // mnmlssgs
5 Various - 5 Years of Hyperdub // Hyperdub
6 Surgeon - RA144 // Resident Advisor
7 Various - When I Was 10 // Ai Records
8 Various - Warp 20 (Unheard) // Warp
9 Modeselektor - Body Language Vol. 8 // Get Physical
10 Mark Solo - The Waters Have Broken // Soliton Research

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