Ipman – Depatterning (Tectonic Recordings)

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.

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Haarp Radio review demo from 2013

This is a montage of music reviews from an old experiment we tried out in 2013 called Haarp Radio.  We ran five episodes before we knew it was too resource-intensive and we didn’t have a good audience. The series featured reviews, gig guides and new tracks.  Perhaps it’s got future on the actual radio?  Who knows? 😉

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)

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

LiL JaBBA – Scales (Local Action)

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LiL JaBBA is formerly from Australia and these days jumps between Baltimore and Brooklyn. He is also affiliated with Chicago’s Teklife crew, whose key members include DJ Spinn and DJ Rashad.

Scales is a really heady footwork album that digs into your brain, and sounds unlike any juke I’ve yet to hear. It goes beyond the cliches of the genre and goes deep, but a different deep to Om Unit’s deep in creating depth that doesn’t proclaim overtly “I am a deep track.”

Scales is a mix of opposing elements. The percussive elements are fast, but the background melody is slow. The background melody becomes the foreground melody, and then some other element that seemed like a non-factor becomes the forefront for the bridge. Melodies and rhythms form, seem solid, then decay. You hear a beautiful series of sounds and then it twists and becomes something discordant and dark.You hear moments of perfect synchronicity, and then the track becomes a trainwreck, but a perfectly calculated one.

In ‘Caverns’, you get a sense of claustrophobia and space at the same time from the discordant mix of organ, arpeggio synth and rolling tribal percussion. It has a sense of forward motion but is off-kilter and seems to be going nowhere.

‘Raiders’ is buzzing and insidious, and seems more a standard sort of dance-battle track as par footwork-style, but only if you were on acid. Stand-out track ‘Loki’ takes juke to outer spatial realms, layering hyper-dimensional sounds and synths and disconcerting higher synths, before rounding off to a trumpeting bridge anthem that is defiant in its messiness.

Tracks like ‘Echinacea’ and ‘Tomorrow’ contains moments of light and solidarity with anthropomorphic vocals, but even these are streamed and garbled into mere impressions of sound, and the tribal juke drums provides the only path through a spacious labyrinth of murky noises.

Even tracks like ‘Station North’ that seem like they’re going nowhere surprise when an underlying element is thrust to the forefront. This unpredictability encourages the listener to be patient in listening, so each track delivers pay-dirt.

All in all, Scales is a horrifyingly wonderful masterpiece that is almost entirely original, a large feat in these times of media saturation.

9 out of a possible 10 Haarp Strings

Link: http://localactionrecords.bigcartel.com/product/lil-jabba-scales

Best Available Technology – Bulldozer Rituals (Styles Upon Styles)

imageBest Available Technology – Oregon-based Kevin Palmer – delivers a real oddity and gem in Bulldozer Rituals, this is good heady sludge right here. Bulldozer Rituals basically sounds like an asylum or old person’s home for synths and drum machines.

‘Bulldozer Ritual’ and ‘Vulgar Geometry’ are journeys into wonky experimentalism, utilising off-beat boom-bap along with clouded and imperfect reverberating synths, but calculated in experimental fashion to deliver pulsing spatial and smoked-out background noise that is half-asleep, half-awake. ‘Venom, Pheromone and Phosperous’ works in this way too, except cut to a beat a bar with a clouded sample shot. This is led by a single high note changing in pitch like a ghost.

Last two tracks ‘Contrecoup’ and ‘Tide Tunnels’ are on the 4-4 spectrum, using a techno formula as the point of hypnosis, minimally lacing in percussive and other synth layers to complement the trance. This effect really does hit the spot, and the addition of these two tracks serves the EP well, although one might say that they are a world apart from the previous tracks in terms of genre. I would say in reply that genre is no convention in the overall sound of Bulldozer Rituals.

The result of Bulldozer Rituals was a hypnotic spell that reaches into the recesses of your brain, attempting to light up all those synapse points we forget about when we wake up and go about our usual mundane third-dimensional chores.

Bulldozer Rituals is part four of the Bangers and Ash 12” series for Styles Upon Styles, a label out of New York City. The 12” is coming out on 26 August.

8.5 out of a possible 10 Haarp Strings.

Link: http://bangersandash.com/

Sleeper – Systema EP (Chestplate)

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Sleeper is one of a number of UK producers falling into the newer category of what constitutes deep dubstep. Artist Distance started up Chestplate Records, which has a stable of artists within the UK dubstep hierarchy like Sleeper, Biome and Kryptic Minds, all of whom work to strip back dubstep to its deepest and darkest of components.

This newer style of deep dubstep – as shown in the Systema EP – contains an air of deeper intensity. First track ‘Systema’ is built like a sleek space-cruiser, unrelenting tribal percussion slams along with an envious bassline, and is punctuated by tendrils of mid-range bass licking through to create  flawless and minimal dubstep that comprises of hardly any melodic structure needed at all. It’s all about the rhythm and bass here.

‘Species’ starts with a desolate synth melody before kicking into a solid stock-standard 2-4,  lightly complemented with congo smatterings with Sleeper’s signature mid-range bass whips. That’s all that’s needed. ‘Total Destroy System’ is arguably the stand-out track on this EP, a tech-influenced tribal slayer. Its shuffling bulldozer of percussion and bass is remorseless, again with little else needed.

‘On The Inside’ slips a bit by trying to use a 4-4 beat standard within its formula. While it works to a degree, it is the weak link of the EP in that the 4-4 comes off sounding like psytrance, which is not something a lot of producers wish to do. It still works in terms of the whole, though.

All in all, Sleeper’s Systema EP is really well done in representing deep and atmospheric music that is still electrifying, but needs hardly anything to create this moody and tense spell. Dubstep isn’t dead yet.

8 out of a possible 10 Haarp Strings.

Link: http://www.junodownload.com/products/sleeper-systema-ep/2238764-02/

Swindle – Long Live The Jazz (Deep Medi Musik)

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Deep Medi is a label known for deep and serious releases of “real” dubstep, its artists releasing EPs exploring texture and sonics with razor precision. Swindle is almost a polar opposite to these sort of acts, and this could represent a turn for Deep Medi in becoming a multi-dimensional bass music label in the tradition of Hyperdub (hinted at previously by Silkie, but more instrumental).

So how can Swindle be an opposite to serious dubstep and still be regarded as “legit”? Well, he’s the most efficient jazz/funk hybrid ever to evolve out of dubstep, and his music is sheer, undulterated fun! Mala hinted at possibilities with Mala in Cuba, but this guy brings the fiesta to life. This is his second LP after releases on Butterz and Planet Mu.

Long Live The Jazz is heavy in sampled jazz instrumentalism from trumpets to bass guitars to double basses to saxaphones, and includes the sublime voices of Nadia Suliman and authentic grime MCing from the likes of Newham General’s Footsie in tracks like ‘Ignition’. It still keeps those old steppin’ wobbles in tracks like ‘Forest Funk’ and ‘Pledge Allegience’, except infused with happy neon synths that will have all dancers grinning away at empty air.

Stakes are upped even further in ‘Kick It’, which does precisely that, clanging hard through reverberating jazz organ, rhythmic off-beat wobs and whip-cracking snares, whilst The Milk provides strong lyrical backing for you to steer your swerve on to.

After an interlude of phone sampling fun in ‘Phone Me’, Long Live The Jazz kicks back into break-ya-neck head bomp with the anthem ‘Running Cold’ led by soulstress Terri Walker smouldering the steady boom-crack and synth blare. This is driven on with the defiant, double-bass twanging ‘Start Me Up’, through the soulful, semi-cheesy ‘Keep Me Warm’ (complete with talk box), and stepping the swaggering ‘Last Minute Boogie’, which is familiar shuffling Swindle territory with added bongo samples.

Refrain ‘It Was Nothing’ is vintage yet contemporary with its vinyl crackles and inspired from Etta James and Sam Cook, with its lyricism from Sam Frank, and is perfect in execution from trumpet samples to piano solo finale. “When I Fly’ provides a more dancable progression of this refrain in its similarity of harmony, and is a cute outro with added vocals from Baby Sol and Joel Culpepper. ‘Do The Jazz’ is a familiar track for single purchasers and is pure Swindle, from its live-sounding drums and accompanying bass-twanging and korgs scatting away with the oh-so-infectious hand clapping.

I can say without exaggeration that Swindle is the funkiest act to ever rear its head over bass music. If someone groans about dubstep to you, take them to see this guy. Electronic music really is looking up.

9.5 out of a possible 10 Haarp Strings.

Link: http://www.surus.co.uk/Deep-Medi-Musik/Long-Live-the-Jazz-21922.aspx

Zomby – With Love (4AD)

Let’s not talk about Zomby’s enigmatic internet persona on Twitter, or what a chavvie he might be, or about the controversy he stirred in looping and biting ‘Natalia’s Song.’ Let’s just talk about his new album With Love, only recently released on 4AD.

WIth Love is a double album, 33 tracks in length. This should count for something, as this number of tracks for an LP would be like his Magnum Opus or something.

However, many of the tracks are less than two minutes in length, and as soon as you start listening to the first side, you realise that most tracks are more or less continuous loops. These loops and tracks are done in inexplicable fashion and are champagne production, eerie and bleak skeletal masterpieces that are uniquely crafted.

This palette of sound of tight drums, trilling phrases of melancholic melodies and menacing strings is rather limited at times, and you could swear that by the time you hit the second side of WIth Love that you have heard the same song twice.

Positively, the spaciousness and atmosphere of With Love is very captivating, and despite its sometimes repetitive nature, it really is pleasant to listen to. A listener would have to decide for themselves as whether or not they could forgive the lack of theme, stop and start nature, and limited palette of With Love is going to affect their experience.

I personally regard this as good listening, but I have to make the judgement that the compositional flaws were not deliberately intended, as Zomby’s general etiquette as a professional does inevitably come into play.

Based on previous laziness Zomby has shown in copyrighting issues and general online ettiquete, it can’t be mistaken that With Love is a lazy attempt of an album that could really have been his ultimate, but instead reads as an artist trying to fool people into believing he is extra-prolific. Judged on face value, Zomby is actually not delivering enough care in production, although quite clearly talented.

Great-sounding loops and a lot of them, but in the end sounds like a bunch of DJ tools rather than any sort of serious album. I’m only rating this so well because I like those sounds and it’s brave for him to go his own way and try this scam.

‘This One’, faaarrrk, lovely.

6.5 out of a possible 10 Haarp Strings.

Link:

Juxtpose – Transferance (self-released)

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Juxtpose aka Wu Kush aka Luc Pawlus is a Melbourne resident who ended up favouring an electronic music format to bands. He is heavily influenced by Detroit techno and his clubbing experiences in Berlin. He regularly plays live techno at many smaller venues around Melbourne.

The self-mastered Transferance is Juxtpose’s first release under this name, having previously released an EP titled 20:12 under the name Wu Kush in 2012. He has also released a track on Uncomfortable Beats compilation Technology Box.

First track ‘Transfer’ starts the EP off atmospherically, and definately dubstep influenced with double timed kicks, and reverberating electronic sounds, complimented by rolling 303-style moogy synth. ‘Third’ changes up pace in Transferance, by kicking through a shuffling beat punctuated with a hat hit at the end of every bar. The melody is sewn by a simple jingling and rhythmic melody intertwined with another spaying kind of melody that serves to give the track an airy quality.

‘Marshall’ seems like it’ll take Transferance into deep terrain again, with its dubby overtures, before breaking into a driving shuffle of abrasive old-school synth that is modulated through phases into background murkiness, which could disconcert some listeners.

‘Boneshaker’ is broken and loose percussive chaos brought together by a distorted piano riff, which is complex and not for listeners who expect steady 4-4 style of techno. This disparity is debatable in its efficiency. It personally delivers for me, but it might not for others. Final track ‘Venetian’ continues on its broken percussive syncopation, laced with a menacing sub-bass tone and sealed by a traditional housey synth melody. It’s a nice end to an interesting EP.

Transferance has a lot of potential in its aesthetic as a project, delivering quirky off-centre techno with dub trimmings, ala Deepchild. I think Juxtpose will continue to grow as an artist and is another Australian artist at the forefront of pioneering Australian techno into a strange new elixir.

7.5 out of a possible 10 Haarp Strings.

Link: http://juxtpose.bandcamp.com/album/transferance-ep

Saturday 29 June: Machine – G3D9 ‘Lost’ EP Launch

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Machine are now running into their fourth year as a techno crew, bringing monthly dance parties to MyAeon, located on the main drag of Sydney Road in Brunswick. They are a “mature and considered revision of techno music, art and culture” crew run by former Psy-Harmonics label owner Andrew Till and legendary Melbourne local DJ Simon Slieker.

Machine are also a record label. They have released all-techno artists like Brian Burger, Linus and Petrou. Their tenth release is an EP titled Lost by artist G3D9 is another foray into deep and rhythmic beats that are stripped right back into an unrelenting 4-4 hypnotic barrage for “real” techno lovers.

G3D9 will be celebrating this launch with a live hardware-driven set along with other DJs Andrew Till, Backroom Reality, Simon Slieker and Gene Hoffmann. Entry is $10 and doors open at 10pm.

Saturday 29 June 2013. Starts 10pm. MyAeon, 791 Sydney Road, Brunswick. $10.

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/192237230932400/?ref=2

Sounds Like: https://soundcloud.com/machine-label/sets/g3d9-lost-ep

George Issakidis – Karezza (Kill The DJ Records)

Techno artist George Issakidis has been producing music for 15 years, and has only just gotten around to releasing a full-length album this year. In the past, he has collaborated with the legendary Speedy J on various singles and as one half of the Micronauts with Christophe Monier. He also releases eclectic tracks from a euro-tech base, both on his own label – The Republic of Desire – and for Artefact and NoveMute.

15 years is a long time to get an album right. Did George nail Karezza? He done well. The blend of sonics sounds what I imagine a Mediterranean ocean full of electric eels would sound like.

To give a bit more solidarity to this ridiculous metaphor, the album starts ominously in ‘Hiva Oa’ with a plodding, menacing beat, accompanied by a menacing monosyllabic organ tone discordantly building in the background and later joined by chaotic low moog synths bubbling at the forefront. It gives the impression of something lurking beneath the surface.

This is followed up by pleasant tropical guitar plucking in ‘Santa Rosa de Lima’, before reverting to the plodding mysterious menace of ‘Hold My Hand’, which plays over ten minutes, but the track is suitably atmospheric and plays the right tempo to allow this length.

The party starts at ‘Summer Solstice’ with a faster pace, but sort of ruined by overly-adventurous and experimental electronic roaring that is out of time and doesn’t conform with the breadth of the track. ‘Shiver’ is a great booty-shaker with an up-change in tempo, but vox stabs and general chaos within melodic structure once again doesn’t particularly compliment Karezza in this case.

This is made up in Karezza stand-out and dancefloor smasher with its heavy bassline and groovy percussive licks and clicks, but still suffers from the same disapparate hecticness that is supposed to be experimentally broken, but doesn’t quite come off although closer on mark this time.

‘Next To You’ and ‘Karezza’ carry on the same tradition of dark and electrified downtempo beats that carry the same atmosphere, except a bit more restrained this time, which helps with the overall subtletly of Karezza.

In the end, this is a brave and great alternative to the majority of generic european techno, and a good try, but therein lies the problem, in that Karezza does try a bit too hard to impress with an exciting front of sonic bells and whistles, but should be concentrating more on the basics of composition.

7 out of a possible 10 Haarp Strings.

Link: http://www.beatport.com/release/george-issakidis-karezza/1093586

Slugabed – This is a Warning (Activia Benz)

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23 year old Greg Feldwick of Bath, England, has had a rapid ascent as producer Slugabed. Since his first release in 2010, he has come from humbler beginnings on labels like Stuffrecords and Ramp Recordings before achieving releases at Planet Mu first, and now Ninja Tunes.

Oh wait no, make that Activia Benz. Who? The label releasing This Is A Warning for free, that’s who!

This success can be linked to his very maximal – but still dead-on – production and plethora of discordant and harmonious sounds melded together in seamless fashion that shows why Slugabed is a Ninja Tunes artist.

This free EP This Is A Warning is an excursion in lands of trap, jungle and dancehall, wrought in masterful fashion. While it’s always dangerous for upper-echelon artists to take generic paths, the way they do it separates masters from the rest of the herd.

Beginning track ‘This is a Warning’ can be classified as trap, but when you listen past rolling 808s and stomping sub-bass, you hear an elegantly crafted and emotionally lit beauty of a track, rich with multi-layered melodic synths that has so much in it, but still manages to avoid being overly busy with all layers giving the track new depth.

‘Sip Up’ is neon-fantastic footwork, blitzing through hype drum patterns before breaking back to anthemic and spacious synth work. The cliche trap vocal samples would usually annoy me in such songs, but serve to punctuate and contrast rather than infuriate. ‘Bombok’ unfortunately does irritate with aforementioned voice stabs, and even all the intricate melody can’t stop irritation here along with predictable builds and drops, although it’s still a decent progressing track and it’s got heart.

Final juke-style track ‘True Born’ is a styling hoot with a barking bassline and fluorescent melody structure, but the highs hurt my ears personally as a listener and repetition ended up doing this track over for me. The track ended with a remix of ‘This is a Warning’ by Eloq which paled in comparison to the original, but remixes on original artists’ albums usually do.

This is a Warning is awesome because it’s free and fun, but I probably wouldn’t be too tempted to buy it. But yes, Slugabed + free = win. I love the album cover of coconut speakers flooding a parrot too.

7 out of a possible 10 Haarp Strings

Link: http://activiabenz.bandcamp.com/album/this-is-a-warning