Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Phantom - LP 1 (2014)


For fans of: John Heckle, Leon Vynehall, Blawan

"Silverback Recordings welcomes back The Phantom (aka Bartosz Kruczynski) with this long-awaited full-length debut. After releasing two EPs for the Ghent-based label, scoring video art, recording numerous remixes, being involved in another project Ptaki (with a best-selling 12" Krystyna), Kruczynski calmed things down in 2013 and focused on recording a more complex project. LP 1 is a true artistic statement with a very strong identity. It's a record summing up Kruczynski's perception of music and style, yet broadening it even more at the same time. The album combines his interest in repetitive minimalism and film music with very direct, yet ethereal club tracks and romantic/ballad influences, as in the stripped-down version of "Gothic," a track he debuted on Silverback in 2012. The record is also a meditation on Warsaw with references to its river and parks. The environmental and idyllic elements are present throughout the album, yet instead of being an escapist work, they are rather the result of emotion recollected in tranquility. It's also an extension of Kruczynski's record crates with influences ranging from Tangerine Dream soundtracks, descriptive library records, the reflective works of Arthur Russell, '80s fusion and deep house 12"s." - Forced Exposure

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Yosi Horikawa - Vapor (2013)


For fans of: Cornelius, Ametsub, The Books

"Yosi Horikawa likes to take his time between releases, which seems fitting for an artist whose music is highly contemplative. Listening to his music, it's easy to imagine Horikawa—who's based in Chiba, Japan—ruminating over every painstaking detail on the 16 songs that comprise Vapor, his first LP and the fourth official release in his catalog. Tracks like "Kingdom of Frogs" are teeming with minutiae; croaking and chirping amphibians, humming bugs, trickling bubbles, delicately plucked keys, crisp claps, pulsing low end, and deep drums are all part of the mix. Somehow, Horikawa creates whole environments of sound that seem to be at once vibrantly alive and digitally artificial.

Field recordings are a key component of Horikawa's work, and he often sculpts their many sonic elements into sturdy beats. For instance, on "Bump," the sound of waves slapping creates the backbone of a lurching rhythm. "Wandering" finds the sound of birds tweeting intersecting with complex, jangling percussion, and on "Letter," the scratches and tapping noises of a hand running a pencil across a page provide an infrastructure for hooting synth melodies and clattering drums. The various beats and song structures arise naturally and even though they've also been embellished with glittering synth melodies and wafts of pads and other audio effects, they evoke strong images—a boat being rowed through lapping waves, a highly animated forest, a concentrated scribe fervently composing a message.

Horikawa's ability to conjure potent imagery with his productions lends a cinematic quality to the songs, which in turn acts as a common thread between the 16 tracks. Vapor travels through a host of different genres: "Wandering" brings to mind the more adventurous end of UK dubstep, namely the rattling beats of Untold's rework of Ramadanman's "Revenue," while "Bump" toys with rocking trip-hop formats. Bubbling noises and pattering rainfall evolve into jittery footwork rhythms on "Splash" and "Starlings," and on "Stars," Horikawa ventures into downtempo jazz with galloping notes from an upright bass and melancholy piano chords. But regardless of what sounds Horikawa is mining, these explorations remain aesthetically linked by his highly visual, dramatic proclivities.

Vapor demonstrates not only Horikawa's versatility as an artist, but also his ability to retain a unique voice and compelling perspective no matter what form his music takes. It's a long album—one might be tempted to take a break around the halfway mark—but each track contains an intricate ecosystem of noises to marvel at." - Elissa Stolman

Greg Haines - Where We Were (2013)


For fans of: Jon Hopkins, Pan•American, A Winged Victory For The Sullen

"After reading the press release of Where We Were and listening to the music for the first time, I was excited to find out that what I have here is actually Greg Haines’ most different and adventurous work to date. No commercial potential. Where We Were is the antithesis of mainstream music in 2013. It’s raw and impulsive rather than polished, calculated and forced; it’s erratic rather than predictable, and it reveals its allure gradually with each listening session instead of revealing it all at once. An album that rewards the attentive listener pursuing the indefinable. An array of mysterious electronic wizardry and acoustic glimmer fluctuates and rumbles, sounding like a broken transmission from another world, generating moments of euphoria—sometimes peaceful and carefree like floating in space watching a colorful nebula, at other times uplifting and wild like coronal rain. Always poignant and occasionally with a sense of darkness, Where We Were is a great example of what electronic music can be if done originally and creatively. It’s not a recording of a person just messing around aimlessly with some instruments, it’s a documentation of one man translating elusive moments of inspiration into sound.

Even though the flow of Where We Were is erratic, the album holds a sense of a journey. The eight tracks assemble something crystallized that is best taken in as a whole. The intensity with which the sound is manipulated is mind boosting and at times overwhelming. Ambient, techno, dub, electronica and classical music come to mind when listening to the music, but Where We Were doesn’t fall under any of those labels. It’s a strange beast composed of analog synths, old tape delays, piano, vibraphone, percussion and free, boundless approach. An intimate work that lets the listener interpret it in any way he or she wants." - Nocturnal Ghost

Ensemble Economique - Light That Comes, Light That Goes (2013)


For fans of: Mark Van Hoen, Belong, Mordant Music

"Praise for Ensemble Economique‘s Light That Comes, Light That Goes from San Francisco’s aQuarius Records: Drugs. Hallucinations. Isolation. Death. Some pretty classic / heavy-as-fuck metaphors run through the work of Brian Pyle, the mad genius of Manilla Beach up in Humboldt County, California.

He’s been at it for a long time now, first knocking on our door with his homespun variations of floorcore psychedelia with the seemingly inactive collective Starving Weirdos; then, there was the fraternal act of nature jamming drones through RV Paintings; and Ensemble Economique is Pyle all by his lonesome, where he’s proven deft at density of sound laced with a nocturnal pop streak that could even warrant some Demdike witchy references.

Pyle‘s hypnotic structures are deceptively simple and proven emotively effective – a lilting layer of blown-out guitar drones cycling through elegiac melodies, another layer of electronic sequences, oceanic driftings, chanted vocalizations, rasps of bowed metals, maudlin church organ explorations, or thumming dial-tone samples, with crumbled film samples of what could be some Russian / French / Hong Kong noir film of some woman frantically whispering about some crime that may or may not have happened.

The individual tracks glide into a purposeful, cinematic song cycle narrative that begins with the thoroughly gloomy, portentous opening track ‘If You Need Help’ that is a real downer of an acid trip spent staring at a ghost ship sinking in the depths of the Pacific with sand, sea foam, and black rain kicking you in the face to make the sense of hopelessness all the more real.

Pyle links the two sides of the album with ‘Ksenia’ – a track split in half of percolating acidic electronic sequences girding those female vocal samples and guitar drones. By the end of the album, his delirious slow-motion take on ’80s bombast lifts the album’s weightiness with two drone-pop ballads of marching rhythms and radioluminescent hypno-melodies. Another mighty fine album from Brian Pyle!" - Roadburn

Genius of Time - Tuffa Trummor (2012)


For fans of: Motor City Drum Ensemble, Levon Vincent, Move D

"unlike their last, ‘houston, we have a problem’, these two new genius of time efforts are unlikely to ever mark the standout moments of a night. but that’s not the point of them, they aren’t trying to be anthemic and nor do they cull any popular samples, instead they are two expertly embellished grooves designed to get you dancing. of course they’ll also get you feeling something, too, because the swedish duo have a knack for heartfelt hooks and pop accessibility, but all housed in underground aesthetics.

‘tuffa trummor med synth’ might not be a catchy title, but there is something wholly catchy about the wavering, underlapping groove on which it is built. there’s a subtle garage shuffle to it that’s heated with plenty of deft synth details, but most infectious of all is the coarse, oscillating synth line that wiggles and jiggles with an unashamed funk right in your face. on the flip, ‘tuffa trummor med roast’ is a little less settled, there’s a call and response action going on where a low down jack hammer sound bangs a few times, only to be answered by a more metallic tin pot clatter up top. a string-laced breakdown brings a moment of serene calm before the jiggering, undulating rhythms roll once more. there’s plenty of air and space around all that, though, with dusty synths and what sounds like a never ending vocal echo adding many more layers for you to get lost in. catchy in the least obvious way, picking a fav here is futile." - Teshno