Ipman – Depatterning (Tectonic Recordings)

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Jack Gibbons aka Ipman hails from rural Herefordshire in the United Kingdom, and is one of a new generation of bass aficionados taking UK bass sounds into the future.  Ipman’s first album Depatterning was released on Tectonic Recordings on 16 October 2015. I’ve always loved Ipman’s single tracks, and he’s always shown himself to be different than your average bear with his focus on that field of beats in dark space.

I was in an absolutely foul mood. For a whole week. Friends and loved ones had to keep me at arm’s length as I attempted to understand just why I felt so dark. No-one would would listen to me or tell me what I needed to hear.  So I did what you do in those sort of moods, crank up some tunes as self-prescribed medication.  For some of us, music isn’t just music, it’s therapy we need to tackle and make sense of life.

My inner intensity was complimented, synthesised, untangled and neutralised through Ipman’s album, which to me made sense to me on an inner level at that time in being called Depatterning.  Subjectively, Ipman confronts genre and changes concepts we have about it by putting things through his own complex filter and set of aesthetics.  Ipman’s technical production is second to none, with a storm of analog and granular synthesis mangled to perfection through off-kilter drum patterning.

More critically, Depatterning reads less as a flowing whole and more as a collection of songs.  I find that most UK bass acts are more focused on DJing, and I feel this is more of a body of work previously produced and released now to keep fans sated and to distinguish him as a major contender amongst UK bass acts.  If this is the game, it succeeds on this front.

However, it succeeds less if the game was to bring out a tight single message in album delivery, because it’s all over the shop without any sort of introduction or conclusion.  I mean, the album title could suggest an escape from any sort of consecutive motion, but that would be a lazy approach.  I’d say that even though it does jump in between genres, it still conforms to niche genres already established such as UK breakbeat, garage and dubstep, and production is fairly predictable with build-ups made for dancefloors.

Song for song, nearly every single track is a solid player for DJ crates and is unfuckwithable in that regard.  Essentially you can expect dark, seething and atmospheric songs stomping along with a off-kilter stop-start-stop bass kick, and augmented with whips of alternating and layered snarling mid-range bass.  Occasionally you will be surprised by softer moments such as driving breakbeat track ‘Strong Ones’, which progressively introduces a melancholic and redemptive overtone.  However, the real strength is on the heavy, evil and insidious beats pounding relentlessly and defiantly.

Other stand-out tracks include ‘Technicolor’ – the album’s single heaviest and most gloriously dark track, ‘IPA’ – a pulsating and progressively psychedelic showcase of Ipman’s truely unique sound, and ‘U’ – a nebulous and atmospheric syncopation delivering those tendrils of aforementioned mid-range bass with deadly accuracy.

Depatterning is a heavy hitting debut that will mangle your brain, and a real show of Ipman’s impressive arsenal of bass weaponry.  I look forward to hearing more of his stuff in the future.

Review: Giyo – Tons of Sky (Dusted Wax Kingdom)

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Giyo is 25 year old Guy Olly, an experimental guitarist taking brave forays into the realms of downtempo and trip-hop styles of production.

Giyo hasn’t been extensively promoted as an artist, and previously released an EP and an album, respectively in 2012 and 2013. This album –Tons Of Sky – is his second full-length album release on intelligent and prolific Bulgarian web-label Dusted Wax Kingdom (ed: check out the link, these guys are great, so much stuff!).

As this music isn’t exactly my forte to review, as it relies more on instrumentation rather than standard electronic production, I can’t really go too much into depth in its construction here, as I’ll look dismal in my knowledge. I’ll try my best to cover the essentials anyhow.

His combination of piano, woodwinds, homemade instruments, field recordings and electronics evokes atmospheres that are subtle, and don’t rely on blatantly fixing more generic settings of mood. All songs are open to emotional interpretation which can be listened to in-depth or provide a great aural canvas in a cafe.

Well worth a listen to those who dig their relaxation music and love it when more classically-styled musicians try their hands at production. Tons Of Sky is pulled off with exotic class, and I’m now interested to listen to more of what this talented musician has to offer.

This is an example of what happens when great musicians open themselves to the realms of electronic possibilities. Tons Of Sky has that for days, relax and soar with it.

4 out of 5 Haarp Strings.

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=3352425413/size=small/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/transparent=true/

Written by Kristian Hatton.

Review: Current Value – Subs9.5 (Subsistenz)

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Germany-based Current Value aka Tim Eliot is a tear-out producer from the majority of drum and bass artists. His sound is dark, dirty and more technical than a lot of artists, which leans more towards breaking genre than to pack dancefloors. He had has an impressive 92 production credits to his name since debuting the Current Value project in 1997, including eight other full-length albums.

His latest EP – Subs9.5 – is promoted by label Subsistanz to offer more in the way of Jump Up styles for the general audience, rather than flat-out technoid styles. I haven’t really listened to Current Value for a while, but I seem to recall his last drumstep-oriented release Stay On This Planet was a lot more accessible to a standard listener than this one.

Subs9.5 would still be considered “Jump Up” in that this release is something that could be utilised by darker and harder drum and bass DJs, but I wouldn’t really consider it something within the actual Jump Up definition. It still carries itself as a technoid release in bringing a psychopathic pace that is only for those who like it fast and furious.

‘Term’ comes in like a hurricane, unrelentingly blazing away at a faster pace than most drum and bass with distorted metallic basstone grinding over the top of a pounding line of percussion, . ‘Circuitry’ continues the mechanical intensity that does deliver more on the Jump Up tip this time around, which is assisted this time by the beats playing more with melody structure.

Melodies in the tracks are off-set by an eerie synthetic melodies and bleeps that create a futuristic dystopian feel that we’ve come to expect out of the darker drum and bass sub-genres like neurofunk and technoid.

‘Alpha Key’ to me is a real stand out on this EP, combining sinister monophonic resonances with a whirring syncopation of sound jutting over a more standard – at least by Current Value standards – percussive onslaught, to create a dark dirge that will smash your brain out.

‘Xray’ is an intricate pallette of machine-gun layers of arpeggiated melodies layered over more simple synths, mid-range basslines, and wailing descending chords which carry Current Value’s dark intensity to its objective conculsion as an overall sound.

This is more what I like to hear Current Value deliver. However, something has been sucked out of what attracted me to this artist in the first place, perhaps in whim of him trying to be more of a dancefloor artist. I mean, I’d still rate him fairly highly for his effort here except I’ve heard better out of him.

Last track ‘Hit The Stretch’ was a bit disappointing for me, in that some of the Current Value depth is lost in preference to a more generic percussive pacing. This doesn’t sound as natural as his straight-up apocalyptic earlier hardcore releases. However, I’m aware that this is a give-and-take affair, and perhaps it was time for Current Value to try and make his sound more accessable to a broader audience.

Subs9.5 plays more successfully than Stay On This Planet by sticking with drum and bass, and packs heat within the more formulated drum and bass sound. However I listen to Current Value more for his merits as a truely unique artist, and here he is less than unique.

3 out of 5 Haarp Strings.

Written by Kristian Hatton.

Radial – Crux (Radial Records)

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Dutch producer Radial aka Jeroen Liebregts has dropped his sophomore full-length album Crux. He’s self-released this on self-titled label Radial Records, and is apparently refreshed now he has artistic freedom. He has made most of Crux with self-built analog software.

‘Cooze Intro’ leads the listener into a contemplative future garage atmosphere of syncopated percussion of sampled live instrumentation, which compliments layers of skittering vox samples, off-beat korg stabs and space of ambient background sounds.

‘Excavated’ follows on from the intro and travels back into 4-4 techno spectrum. It still contains leaking elements of synth tones from the intro, whilst working with rolling lower basslines and complimented layered clattering for a resulted trance-like overtone.

‘Cosmetics’ presents somewhat of a more tense and paranoid vibe of urban technophobia with its pounding lower kicks and higher duo-tones of alarm, punctuated by arpeggios of bubbling chimes and building lower elements of muffled whirring reverberation, that serve to agitate further rather than relax the listener, and perhaps kick them on further into hypnosis.

‘Fifth Wheel’ relaxes into more of a spacious and danceable jam, before progressing into the thrumming and driving Knight Rider theme-eque riff of ‘Background’, which is quite nice in its subtlety and minimalism of elements. Unfortunately at this point, I’m starting to lose interest in Crux.

Next for the digital release is a bonus track entitled ‘Smoking Break’, which like ‘Cooze Intro’ break through a syncopation of percussion, whilst is kept harmonised by a simple off-key synth melody for an organic and funky result. It perks my interest up momentarily, but I know it’s going back to flat 4-4 again.

This makes way for the more trancey and jangley 4-4 of ‘Tunnels’, somewhat starkly mechanical and revisiting previous frenetic nervousness of ‘Cosmetics’, except with a bit more space and less tension. ‘Karplus’ takes us back to aforementioned state of urban claustrophobia within its small room panicked reverberating and overpowering lower synth tones, and Bodzin-esque higher tones which decay before, breaking right back into the same riff with more power, although the elements remain the same as before. I say Bodzin-esque, because the track comes off as an imitation of Herzblut-style elements.

Track ‘Tipsy’ is quite frankly a mess. The annoying doopley higher keys meander around like Radial was producing this track when he was completely pissed and then forgot that he accidentally pressed it on 12”. I think it really discredits him to even contemplate putting out a track like this. It fits into the spectrum of the album, but that reflects on the album and affected my listening experience. If this is what “artistic freedom” is, perhaps he should be a little less free.

‘Another Trail’ kept on the same path of urban discomfort and pounding beats, which after many tracks of the same ol’-same ol’, I’d quite frankly had enough. Finale ‘Equation Outro’ came off as an incomplete shadow of Autechre or Valence Drakes, and even then I’m being nice.

For me personally, Crux dragged on way too long. I mean, I get it. It’s techno, right? But that doesn’t mean techno listeners lap up every beats they hear. Or at least I hope not. The elements of hypnosis in the majority of Crux weren’t refined or original enough to really capture me, and because of lack of any real interesting elements or developments, most of the tracks ended up making me yawn halfway through. Even if the tech tracks were shorter, they wouldn’t be something I’d ever come back to as a listener.

If he made more tracks like his first two bonus ones, I might contemplate giving his gear another listen, but for now I’m sadly reminded of how much uninspiring tech there is out there. I understand that he made a lot of this with analog software, but that doesn’t get bonus points with me. For me, it’s more about end product, not what medium an artist uses. I like a lot of Radial’s use of space in atmosphere, but in the end it’s all filler, no real killer.

5.5 out of 10 Haarp Strings

Written by Kristian Hatton.

Druid Cloak – Bastion of the Sterling Thrones (Bad Taste)

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Druid Cloak loves fantasy fiction and rap. His beats are played by the likes of Ryan Hemsworth and Sepalcure. He has been described as ‘elusive’ and ‘mysterious’ by a few websites, a questionable description for one who plays out on a regular basis, so only a throwaway promotional description. This is Druid Cloak’s third EP release done over the conceptual nature of higher fantasy and “organic connection.”

Bastion of the Sterling Thrones is likewise laced in concept and narrative, with the oh-so-elusive Druid Cloak pretty much detailing word for word a narrative of “a tale of rescue” and of romance as the hero fights to save his loved one from the clutches of evil. We are told precisely what is going on and this is hardly “elusive or “mysterious.”

Although as a writer, I enjoy a good yarn. But we should make up our own mind about what music is about, or at least the narrative should apply more intrinsically. While I do respect influences, we all have our own interpretation and for reviews, it’s about how messages are communicated. It’s questionable whether or not promotion can help or destroy the imaginative properties of songs. For the sake of this review, I will present the song from the artists point of view, and then I’ll give my take of it.

‘Archpriest’ introduces us to the vile nature of the story’s antagonist, the evil Archpriest. This interpretation is done through rattling jungle breaks, a smooth, bassy hip-hop roll, ‘Wooh’ voice stabs of varying pitch, male choir singing and melodic layers of synth that are more beautiful-sounding and not ike introducing any evil character. It’s monosyllabic as an overall idea and not really on par with forecasted concept.

‘Sterling Thrones’ bassy boom-bap heralds a battle between good and evil, so you’d expect it to be a full jarring clanger, right? Instead, we are treated to the same rattling jungle breaks over an arpreggiated landscape of spacious and lush beats, done tastefully and in a way that doesn’t sound conflicting. Again, not on par with concept although nice.

Final track in this trilogy – ‘The Poultice’ – is angsty and wonderful with its slow and deep boom-boom-boom-clack woven with emotional female vocals and different melodic layers. I’m not even going to bother arguing that this track is actually a happy ending where the hero is reunited with his princess, as it doesn’t apply on any level to me personally. I loved this track, but the promo again tainted it for me.

The last two tracks are remixes of ‘The Poultice’ and ‘Sterling Thrones’, performed by Tony Quattro and Timbah respectively. They are well-handled, with the former track being given a fairly even electro-breaks treatment, and the latter firing off layers of UKG-style breaky beats clad in dark synth.

The album was musically sound (although hardly ground-breaking), but that promo, grrrr. As a music journalist, are we really expected to suck up and regurgitate it in different words? I hope not, cause otherwise I’m doing it wrong.

Released 9 September 2013 digitally and in limited clear vinyl.

Pre-order here: bit.ly/17pboaw

Written by Kristian Hatton.

96wrld – Private Language (Error-Broadcast)

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Have you heard much Lithuanian beats lately? Neither have I. Apparently there’s quite a scene and national pride there though. Miša Skalskis aka 96wrld has been releasing single tracks on Lithuanian label Renegades of Bump and submitting mixtapes to Mondayjazz (also Lithuanian).

96wrld now presents a whole album for your listening pleasure – Private Language – which was released on label Error Broadcast, which features such guests at other times such as Om Unit and Flako.

The overall tone of Private Language is one of multiple layers that can change in direction at any given moment. This exciting approach to trap/wonky is accentuated in the precise and warm attention 96wrld shows in all hits and synths, with each sound tailored warmly to draw and comfort rather than to jar to senses as other trap tends to do to me at times.

‘Slave’ starts the album excitedly, a bubbling, neon dirge of arpeggiating synths driven by a steady and bassy boom-bap. Private Language then settles back into a chill trap groove with ‘Eschatology’, led by rich bass and percussion with attitude, and trimmed with bubbling and soothing synths. ‘Pop Song’ is dark and minimal in 80’s-electro-meets-trap before breaking out into arpreggiation and squelch punctuated by vox sample hits scrambling through the seething chaos of unpredictable bridging break-out bars.

‘Bruce Willis’ starts with harmonious and lulling chords before dropping into an insidiously and deliciously distorted blend of discordant clicks and humming high and low synths slowly elevating in note. The result raises the hairs on the back of your arms and is available for free at XLR8R at the embedded clip below.

‘Private Language’ is personalised and more focused with Markas Palubenka’s slightly-melancholic vocals. This is complimented by detached anthropomorphic voice sample laced through bass and crumbling, loose drum hits which heighten in intensity as one of the more solid song concepts of Private Language.

‘Satta’ goes back to the more fun, trappy pace of the album, resplendent in cheeky voice stabs, warm bubbling synth and high pitched, elevating whoops, before breaking out into a bridge of spacious, brooding single chords and twanging neon synths.

All in all, Private Language has some highly original ideas, and brings wonky beats and trap finesse into a distorted, acidic and fun journey that charms and electrifies, and will retain the listeners interest from start to finish.

Scheduled for release digitally and in limited 12” on 23 September, 2013.

Release Link: http://www.error-broadcast.com/

Written by Kristian Hatton.

Ghostek – No Way Out EP (Sub Squared)

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Russian producer Arthur Galimov has released music under the alias of Ghostek since 2011. He has released six EPs in that time on labels like Square Harmony, and now Sub Squared for the label’s first EP released. His music branches out of bass music into no-frills garage and techno territory, and is tagged as “Ghost Techno”

The No Way Out EP is gutsy with no bullshit spared. The EP rattles along with Burial-style inflections complimenting the 4-4 garage-flavour beat, sounding muffled but clean at the same time.

Track ‘No Way Out’ is an instantly infectious ghetto-tech rolling stomper with attitude that has appropriate style for both bass music and tech fans alike. ‘Jaws’ is more insidious and broken, appealing more as a break to fans of dark UK atmos-fear. ‘Vampire’ is fidgety with its cavorting melody bouncing around like a trailer skimming along a dirt road, which holds a striking balance with the ever-present 4-4. ‘Haunt You’ is the most reminiscent to Burial with its distant anthropomorphic voices and broken syncopation, but more distinctly aimed at a dancefloor.

No Way Out isn’t anything mind-blowing, but is good, dirty/clean garage techno with a deep and spacious feel for an intelligent yet uncomplicated dancefloor. If this is the direction Sub Squared is taking in their overall sound as a label, it could be very promising as a resource for DJs in quality dance music, and I thought Ghostek brought out a well-grounded cracker to get things heated up on the floor. I’ve seen beats like this be very successfully used by DJs in the past, so am looking forward to what both label and artist present in the future.

Highly recommended to tech DJs who like to get dirty. No Way Out will be released on 12” on 16 September and will also be available digitally.

Written by Kristian Hatton.

Virtual Proximity – Blue Glow Path (self-released)

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Virtual Proximity are a Melbourne audio-visual electronic outfit headed by James Annesley, a musician trained in many wind instruments including baritone, tenor and soprano saxophone, bass clarinet and flute. They are self-described as “dark jazztronica.” James formed Virtual Proximity in 2005 and has previously released 2 self-titled full-length albums via Bandcamp, the first of which was available in a jewelled CD case.

James has collaborated and improvised with other jazz musicians within albums and live shows, which are a combination of live instrumentation, digital looping and spontaneous drum programming. They utilise an intimidating array of midis, with wires and pedals, and unique instrumental midis like flute and double bass. Visual programming is added to provide extra colour and movement to the ambient and texture-laden atmosphere of the shows, of which have been witnessed at shows like Rainbow Serpent and Uncomfortable Beats.

Virtual Proximity’s latest offering Blue Glow Path saw James and his current primary collaborator Tristan Courtney (trained in bass string instruments and electronic improvisation) take a three day country journey last year, where they recorded six hours of improvised electronic sounds in 45-60 minute sets. The first four tracks of this session were then taken, edited, slightly altered and mixed for this offering.

Blue Glow Path is eerie and texture-laden, with drum machine boom-bap and Annesley’s reverberating flute midi directing the tracks, complimented by the rhythm of Courtney’s double bass and grounded in broken and progressive hip-hop drum patterning.

The overall impression the EP left on me is that it helps flex Virtual Proximity as a live improv act, and is also great atmospheric listening for those lazy days. The textural component create a more organic atmosphere than most “real” bands could replicate, and last track ‘Ego Evaporates’ encapsulated this aesthetic probably the most conclusively.

You can download all of Virtual Proximity’s albums for free at their Bandcamp site and I highly recommend you keep an ear out for their live show, which mostly occur in smaller jazz and nightclubs in Melbourne.

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=1308302405/size=medium/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/transparent=true/

Written by Kristian Hatton.

Men In Burka – Techno Allah (Robot Elephant Records)

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Kamran Khan is half-white, half-Pakistani. Formely involved in electronic band project Modern Witch, Khan now flexes his project – Men in Burka – in to express his Pakistani origins in America, in collaboration with Zoots and Strange Powers.

The promotion for Techno Allah boasts a mixture of modern electronica from Chicago house, hip-hop, electro and bounce. ‘Click-Click-Click’ comes in with an unsettling mid-range tone with a panjabi-style shuffle, and Nicky Minaj and gun samples chucked in to create an unsettling middle-eastern dirge reminiscent of a war-torn Pakistan.

‘Techno Allah’ kicks up a frenetic dance pace with 80s-style drum machines and synths, placed on sample voice stabs. ‘Azaadi’ is sample-based again with a semi hip-hop/semi traditional middle-eastern riff that sounds more like an interlude.

The B side of the album is more interesting and natural sounding, with the psychedelic riff of ‘Lamborghini Kashmir’ bringing a proper world-style flair to a contemporary beat. The menacing ‘Kumb Melah’ is militant in its drum snares and insidious background synth, again bringing heat through its traditionally styled middle-eastern melody and arabic synths. The EP is concluded through ‘More Khala”s discordant higher synth keys over a middle-eastern tribal dirge that is dark and exuberant.

All in all, Techno Allah is simply-done, and needs no embellishment to impart its dark and exotic middle-eastern dancefloor aesthetics through the beats, and holds promise of furthering of cultural awareness within the westernised mindframe of America through electronica.

7 out of a possible 10 Haarp Strings.

Link: https://soundcloud.com/robot-elephant-records