Review: OverworX – OverworX 001 (OverworX)

Next up is Ovewrworx, which is Ben Pest in disguise, and heading up what I think is his own label. For those who don’t know him, Ben Pest has been around for a while, with releases on underground luminaries like I love Acid, and Jerome Hill’s Don’t – both pretty decent arbiters of leftfield heat.

What we have here is a blast of the underground from a direction which has been growing a little bit over the last year or two. It’s reminiscent of Unspecified Enemies in the way it rewires broken bits of rave, house, electro, and God knows what else into a wonky looking, but hard moving, creation which exudes a sense of venomous glee. I Am The Cream Is a big room, day-glo stomper that whirls around the always improbable point where house begins to warp into rave. Let’s be honest here: it’s a brutally dumb track, but it’s not built for subtlety. It’s vast, colossal, and unashamedly aimed at getting hands-in-the-air. Carbs Before Marbs is less bothered about raising a smile – although it certainly does – and channels a bit of old Djax harshness into a clattering, rickety, skeleton always on the edge of falling apart.

The two digital only tracks pull a similar hit ‘n’ run to their vinyl siblings, but take aim at something less straight up and warehousey. Credible Honk is a frayed, garagey, scruff of fractured beats that expand and contract with heat. Leaner than the first two tracks – vainer too – it provides contrast and shade from the earlier work, and opens the record up to a wider world of influences.

Flybot’s electro is coloured with little tweaks, and a careful roughness, which accents an old-school looseness wedded to a Rotterdam-esque skank. While it never quite hits the scabby, mutant, heights of a Murder Capital/Viewlexx banger, it still manages to bring that same feeling of getting lost somewhere between the ribs of the groove and hoping you could get back to the open before it hits off on a tangent.

OverworX001 does a good job on opening up upon a similar electronic world as Jerome Hill, Textasy, a few others. Sonically they often bear little resemblance, but there is a shared energy that owes a lot to a brasher, louder, and dafter, musical heritage than we are usually treated to. OverworX001 differs in that, unlike those other producers, it’s at its happiest when moving between the various extremes, not particularly staking a claim to any one form. The ground it covers brings a wealth of ideas and, perhaps unexpectedly, moods. While the speed it moves at sometimes leaves things a little hazy, the energy it imbibes everything with is insane. Four directions on offer here. I hope each get their turn to be fully explored in the future.

Advertisements

JEM – Daisy Cutter (Sheik N Beik)

JEM – Daisy Cutter (Sheik N Beik)

First release – I think – for Joe Europe, a fellow scribe who might be familiar to you if you read the Ransom Note, and it’s not what I was expecting. To be fair, I don’t know what I expected; we music writers are a starkly talented bunch, but when it comes to cooking up a batch of our own jams we tend to run towards the ‘difficult’ end of the wedge as if to show the world that we really do know better than the rest of you (which is usually true so stop crying,) even in that means dousing the music we love in clever, sour-faced, experimentalism.

Daisy Cutter goes off in another direction. Rendering a number of relatively familiar influences and moods in unexpected ways, the record sidesteps the above malaise by the simple act of delivering four tunes which amplifies a feeling that the EP is, in some ways, a history tour which takes in not only JEM’s own musical experiences, but one that seeks to link together various ports of call through house and techno’s past.

It isn’t as complete as that, of course, but instead offers an interesting and alternative journey through the music’s history, one that is slightly off-centre compared to the usual route. Opener Daisy Cutter offers up a vision of Detroit that owes a great deal to Robert Hood’s original minimalist take on the city’s sound before it loosens off into a more slanted funk. Temple evokes the collision between hard, machine tightened, acid house, and techno which fuelled the music that used to flow out of Radikal Fear and early Djax. While it doesn’t lean on the floor as hard as some of those old records did, it builds a tight groove with a lighter touch.

Elements of Daisy Cutter, in fact, are smoothed with that lighter touch, rougher edges patted down even when the music is a little more expansive. The fractured, dreamlike Neb carries itself on an insect-call like 303, but relies on the delicate engine of its percussion to move, and little synth stabs to flutter at the mood and let the light in.

Semiotic tries to mix Daisy Cutter’s examination of mood and atmospheres with a more straight ahead approach but it doesn’t quite fit together, with neither part managing to move itself ahead. Even so, its cocky playfulness lends it an unexpected charm that sets it well with the rest of the record.

And, unexpectedly, it’s Semiotic’s playfulness that actually ends up, in some ways, defining the whole of Daisy Cutter; it’s in the way influences have been taken apart and cleaned up, put back together in slightly wonky and interesting forms, and in an understated delight at the way the new, mutant forms go their own ways. Ultimately, the deconstruction unlocks a sense of sly mischief and fun within the music that holds the interest even once the initial thrill of discovery has passed.

Review: Victor Valiant – V Is For Victor (Asking For Trouble)

V Is For Victor is the first collaboration between Keith Tenniswood – AKA Radioactive Man – and Freerotation resident Suade Bergemann, and from the off it feels a wider take on electro than we have recently been used to. Whether this is intentional or not I don’t know. Collaborations can take even the most singular musical vision of one of the participants away on a tangent, first time pairings even more so.

In some senses Victor Valiant echoes and learns from lessons presented by older music and artists, such as James Stinson and his work as The Other People Place. While V For Victor never departs traditional electro to anywhere near the same extent as Stinson did on Lifestyles Of The Laptop CafĂ©, it taps at a similar seam. The tunes on V For Victor exhibit a looseness and warmth, and an almost downtempo vibe, that is rare in the genre, and a little eye-opening when considering Radioactive Man’s recent canon of molten, mutant, stormers.

But more interesting is the soulfulness which sits at the heart of the record. It tugs on the direction of the tunes, and scoops out space for itself between the beats, lending the sense that this records true influences were to be found in crackly old funk and rare groove records rather than technobass or hip hop or rave.

Even the parts of the album which are very much ‘proper’ electro, like Anti-Flash, or Conway, tip their hats to the prevailing mood. Anti-Flash drags a slithery bassline through a complex street map of beats and rogue tones, occasionally putting you in mind of a fractured and tripped-out Boris Divider. Conway strips everything down to the beats and wobbly riff for the sort closed-eyes workout that could make itself at home at any point over the last 20 years while remaining very contemporary indeed. Its slowly building sense of malice, its snake-hipped movement, and its quiet restraint, mark it out as one to keep an ear on.

If we’re being entirely honest, though, it’s the other half of the album which elicits the most interest. Influences are opened up, rhythms loosened. On Dragonfly we’re shepherded down tight, midnight streets by jaggy, swaggering, acid funk, dipping into a bag of psychedelic fun as we go. Tanker further widens the gulf between V Is For Victors two parts with a jazzy, groove infused high-tech boogie that dances with the ghosts of genuine old-school electro while Mike Banks watches on.

Olympus is in another place entirely. Languid, dripping with little touches of colour, Olympus is a slender tune coiled around a massive, wandering, bass and coaxing shapes and textures into being. It falls somewhere between future-dub and some sort of deep-space noir dreamt up in the early 70s. Even the occasional flutter of vocodered lyrics drift into just the right place. Deep and genuinely woozy, it’s a highlight on an album that takes delight in stripping electro down and rebuilding it into something that feels as old as it sounds new.

Review: DL-MS – Exit Ghost (Trust)

DL-MS – Exit Ghost (Trust)

Quieter year so far for DJ Glow’s Trust label, but it looks as if they’re getting into their stride now with a new release by DL-MS, a follow-up to last year’s Rogue Intent and one that in a wonderful display of synchronicity shares its title with a fine novel by the very recently departed Philip Roth. I demand more electronic music with literary pretensions – it’s the way forward for sure.

And Exit Ghost itself is pretty forward leaning, which is interesting because the general feel of the music is very much old school. The electro is textured not only with the now ubiquitous filaments of IDM, but something weightier and more alien: a luminosity which recalls the wide open spaces of classic ambient techno, where the tripiness of the journey is carried by the fluidity of the grooves and the beats.

Both Tides and Honokida have that dichotomy at the heart of their DNA. Honokida in particular dives into a deep well of electronica, retrieving the movement of ancient Detroit from the sediment at the bottom, and using it to inform a gliding, haunting, paean where the thick, serpentine bassline winds around mournful pads and little touches reminiscent of Rhythim Is Rhythim at their most visionary. Tides is dirtier; less interested in the clouds it keeps itself rooting through the undergrowth, propelling itself with tricks borrowed from tech-step and a quiet, subtle sense of exploration. Yet both tracks share a common aspect regardless of how high they climb or how low they dig, a strength of mood and an understanding of the way influences interplay with each other to create something new.

Of the flip side’s two tunes, Exit Ghost is perhaps the less immediately intimate but the one more likely to draw you back time and again to explore its layered mysteries. There’s something about it – the aggressively up-front yet entirely louche weave of its groove, or the growing rush as the chopped down, pulsing bass grows in importance, which keeps it always slightly beyond the familiar. By the time the tune brings the different parts of itself together, it has already dialled down into a midnight land-cruise, all shadows and glints of sodium light. As much D&B and Carl Craig as it is recognizably electro, Exit Ghost is proof that the genre is changing, altering itself for the future (something I hope to shed a few words about sometime soon). Perhaps in unfortunate comparison to its immediate sibling, Terminal Din A feels disjointed and less complete, particularly for the first couple of minutes – although that is soon offset by an unexpected warmth which slowly morphs into a gentle wistfulness that finally gives the tune the meaning it was missing.

Electro is changing, and not even in the ways we might have expected a couple of years ago. There is a new-found confidence in exploring other influences and Exit Ghost is a fine example of this blossoming ethos. There will be a few strange directions taken on this new journey, you can be sure of that, but if some of the destinations are as interesting as this, it’ll be worth it. I don’t know whether Big Phil Roth would have been a fan of new-generation electro but I like to think he would have allowed his feet a wee shuffle to Exit Ghost even while he said something beautifully, perfectly, cutting about it.

Three Quick Bursts of Reviews

It’s lovely out. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the park is full of drunk neds sans shirts who are slowly going a strange bright pink colour as the warm rays plough over their almost translucent Scottish skin. it is, in short, as summery as it ever gets around here and the fictional Joys Of Life are coming close to being a real thing. Conventional wisdom says that this is the time of year where we put away all of the loud grinders we were using to get us through the endless months of snow, rain, and darkness, and begin to unwind with some lighter, jazzy numbers. But conventional wisdom, my friends, is a dog; I’m no more likely to follow its fragile logic than I am to suggest to those taps-aff dafties in Kelvingrove park that they swap their bottles of Buckfast for something breezy and summery like a Beaujolais.

So, since I’ve been a lazy sod recently there’s been a bunch of stuff falling through the cracks, I thought we’d do a wee round-up of stuff that’s arrived in orbit over the last few months. Here’s three for starters.

West End Communications have made a place for themselves over the last few years with a slew of releases heavy with sticky, chewy, beats and a finely gnarly attitude. Their new record, the UK Steep EP by the brilliantly monikered Ludgate Squatter takes up the baton, points it straight forward like a lance, and runs like a bastard straight at your face. This is the sort of record you want to play to people who refer to monotonous, modern, slabs of boredom as ‘warehouse’. This collection of crumbling, brutal, yet oddly light-of-touch, tunery seems to be a heaving dose of cranky techno and electro when you first listen to it, but beyond the distortion and the huge beats, there are plenty of little trick, lots of misdirection to take you out of the shadows and into daylight. Every track comes with its own little world of dubious pleasures, but my pick is Believe which sounds like a broken bus engine starting an electro duo with a friendly chainsaw. The vinyl version comes with a free Bandcamp code, which is always appreciated. Always.

Luxus Varta’s Then We Fall on Brokntoys was a record I had high hopes for, but ultimately never entirely got it together with. A good artist on an increasingly interesting label, there just seemed to be too many moments on The We Fall which just lack enough escape velocity to become truly cosmic. There are plenty of interesting influences, mind you, and I could catch touches of Model 500 (and even Carl Craig sometimes); mostly a love of IDM seems to shine through which is a totally valid thing to bring to the party even if it sometimes leaves me a bit cold. Even so, there are still a couple of very class tunes on board – Lesis might take while to get itself going but once it does, it boils itself down to a thick swirl of shadow and glass. Understated and deceptively hard, it’s a great example of deepness done with mood instead of strings. Radion is light years away, a bopping burst of deep space disco forever riding the frequencies of a neutron star.

Ninja Scroll by RNXRX on Struments, on the otherhand, keeps the focus a little more towards electro’s primary heat sources – although maybe not as much as you might first expect. Harsh, fast, and pretty funky, Ninja Scroll is a decent bunch of jams, even if the use of Drexciya/Heinrich Mueller reverential track names started the alarm bells ringing a bit. Yeah fair enough, that stuff is definitely there but what keeps it from slipping towards anything like an homage is the way much of it is filtered through something tighter and more industrial, with the hard rolling beats providing a platform for some subtly wonky histrionics. Ninja Scroll itself has the warming daftness of the Young Gods in their Second Nature period (except with a better groove); High Rise wriggles down into the dirt, like some feral thing escaped from the Touchin’ Bass stable, and claws itself along, with a moody Boris Divider-esque energy. Despite what you would expect,And despite what you might presuppose, Drxcyan doesn’t float off towards Lardosa. It’s too whip-smart for that, propagating a dose of claustrophic, faintly eastern sounding, chaos. Yet another piece of the electro puzzle getting itself some moves from other places. Something is going on in the genre…..