Monday, 29 October 2012

Lindstrøm - Smalhans


I never thought I'd use the metaphoric comparison of saying Lindstrøm's releases come to us like buses: you wait for one, and then two come along instead. But surprisingly, that's the case. It's rather quite fitting, not because Hans-Peter Lindstrøm - to give his full name - is one of my current favourite musicians/producers within the disco/dance confine, but also because the two 2012 releases in question are as yin and yang to one another as you can get. With 'Six Cups Of Rebel' in February, Lindstrøm explored more experimental and eccentric sounds that were as much quirky and stand-out, as they were in places, varyingly risky. Regardless of whether you welcomed the change, or completely threw it to the lions - hopefully, without throwing your toys out of the pram - fans of both camps will find 'Smalhans' both welcoming and reassuring in its return to full-on dance-disco rhythms, that Lindstrøm has not forgotten what it is he does best. And while it's just over half the length of Rebel, it holds as much, if not more, energy and sense of voyage than its predecessor.

I've already discussed opener 'Rà-àkõ-st' in detail, and while I could simply skip to the next, what I will raise is that which I haven't mentioned yet. And that's the tracks multitude of luscious sounds that fade to and fro from one another. One listen and you might find yourself hooked to the bobbing of synths and drums for the most part. Next listen, you'll be whisked away by the flurry of electronics that pass by in multitudes throughout. Likewise, when the track gains full momentum, you'll find yourself reeled in by the lavish darting of synths that only mount the track from what was a passing flurry, into a full-on colossal of space exploration. Indeed, this is the Lindstrøm we know and love - a delicate Norwegian mind laying delicate lavishes of electronics into 4/4 patterns that both drive as much as they drill us into the momentum of modern disco. 'Lāmm-ęl-āār' adds a true sense of discovery and venture in Lindstrøm's sound and the waver of electronics adds true dimension to the track's cosmic speed. The padding of synths may be lesser in breadth than they are on previous listens in the man's discography, but the continuing drive loses none of its rhythmic appeal, the grittiness of one hook doing just as much as the more twinklier and star-gazing sounds of others.

'Ęg-gęd-ōsis' has less of a forward drive and more a static jiggle about it, but that doesn't take away from the way the music moves about the empty space surrounding us. Incorporating more of a house structure and less about discovering - feeling more like it's rummaging through what's already been discovered - its bubbly electro groove sends ripples of synths outwards as the clapping beat of percussion carries the song throughout. It's funny then that even when I talk about tracks merging together and reacting to one another in terms of their individual components, it's the tracks with a lead element or overly dominant tone, that catch my ear and drag my attention away from the rendezvous point, and straight into the actual journey being taken. 'Vōs-sākō-rv' makes it known straight from the word go where the potential lies, and therefore, where its attention is being centred on. The track's primary loop of a polynomial synth line slowly but gorgeously transcends, mutates and twists into string-like streams of patterned disco, leaving the surroundings a sort of reactive outline to the flutter and darter of the track's primary electronic riff.

The concept of discovery and adventure does, admittedly, come up on numerous occasions on these tracks, as they usually do in a Lindstrøm composition. And while it would be understandable for you or someone else to take this as assuming the album may be linear or one-trick in its nature, it's the way the Norwegian uses, in places, a minimal palette of synthesizer hooks, drumbeats and overlays of spacious effects that intensifies and gradually builds the album up into something far grander in scale. As is the case then with 'Fāār-i-kāāl', the choice in sound and way of composing and arranging such sounds may be deemed less of a surprise musically than previous efforts. Lindstrøm, however, instead focuses on the differentiation between tone and assumption that it actually creates quite an awe-inspiring shine of electronic music. The music glistens and glows - every fade into lighter tone and every descent back into finding somewhere else to reach for - felt evermore as if you can imagine Hans-Peter himself twisting and turning the countless knobs and controls on the hardware and equipment he's using.

If that is the case, and the penultimate track to this 33-minute outing is like a setting-up or preparation of sorts, 'Vā-flę-r' then is the rocket that blasts off and sails majestically out into the open void of space disco sound. While it opens with as much a quirky innocence and simplicity of percussion as his last release may have hinted at, it soon finds itself taken command by the shine of a synth pattern that rises and rises until it's left with no other option than to sail increasingly further out into the glorious full-scale beauty of the stars. Holding as much glistening audio as it has metaphoric visuals in the music's assumption, it's a delicate yet sturdy foray into disco rhythm, the solid padding of drums mixed in with the gaseous flutter of layered electronics, it's an immaculate listen both for its sense of direction as well as for the way it's so easily hooks people into seeing beyond the horizon where the glistened synths finish and the track leads us straight on past it all - past the escape velocity of Earth and out into the unknown.

All this talk about space and stars and exploration, and I can't help but refer to the most peculiar and possibly most revealing fact of this album: each of these track's names derive from the names of traditional Norwegian cuisine. It's revealing not because of its bizarre personal relation, but despite this sort of subject matter relation surrounding an album like 'Smalhans' (that itself literally translates as 'thin hans'), it's the fact we talk about this music invoking so much about exploration and venturing of the cosmic beyond, it's a testament to how far Lindstrøm can take us sensually, with his sounds. One of the reasons I enjoy this artist's music was because he was one of the first I discovered when I went looking for new discoveries in electronic music. That discovery may be far larger in actual scope than I had originally imagined, but it still demonstrates why Lindstrøm is a name to admire. With an album like this, it's a firm reminder as to the wide scope visuals and means of reference electronic music can often create.


Saturday, 27 October 2012

Interview: Faderhead

Faderhead's meteoric rise to fame is something to be admired. He's playing gigs all around the world and he still manages to push out a new album practically every year. I caught up with Faderhead to have an in-depth talk about his music, his rigorous touring schedule and the state of the music industry.

Sync24 - Ambient Archive [1996-2002]

Ultimae Records is on a roll. The French electronic label has so far released the newest Solar Fields effort, the debut album from Connect.Ohm and the fantastic compilation album Greenosophy

This year also saw the release of Daniel Segerstad's (from Swedish downtempo giants Carbon Based Lifeforms) sophomore release under the Sync24 moniker called Comfortable Void. And now he's set to release a collection of unreleased Sync24 material in the form of a download only album named Ambient Archive which features 14 tracks produced between 1996 and 2002. Apart from being full of familiar sounds and shapes, Segerstad also has a few surprises up his (relaxed) sleeve.

The journey through time starts with “Silence”, a track which showcases the familiar textures we became used to hearing on a CBL release with the rawer undertones of Sync24's earlier work. The bassline sounds familiar enough; it sounds like this could have been a very early demo for Dance of the Droids off of the recently released Comfortable Void, a refreshing take on a familiar concept. "Idle" also sounds like familiar territory. Vintage analogue synths lay on a bed of warm pads and soothing melodies. The vibe changes with the third track, which is interestingly named “Quad”. It's less ambient and more downtempo, sonically reminiscent of the later works of Jean-Michelle Jarre. "Nevermind" and "Return" let go completely of the characteristics of ambient music in favour of a more trip-hop-esque vibe. It's compelling to hear the classic CBL vibes mixed in with different genres. Even though it's less ethereal than his current stuff it manages to keep you interest with its dynamics and melodic passages. “M42” features a heavy percussive bassline and subtle bits of synth plastered over a 80s style drone. “Monolith” adds a lot of atmosphere to the already established dynamics featured on this album with a synth guitar and a steady rock and roll beat. 

The album swings you back and forth between relaxed and extremely relaxed without much effort or a noticeable transition. It's a unique look inside the mind of Sync24 at a time where he was busy figuring out his sound and his technique and it does a terrific job at showcasing just how talented this man really is. A plethora of genres are served to you on a silver platter and there are enough subtle layers in each track to keep you occupied (or to keep you company by filling up your room with a certain mood or atmosphere) and interested. On one hand it's a very engaging album, what with the melodies and rhythmic elements. On the other hand it's a perfect album to keep you company when you’re working at home or when you're trying to relax after a long day. The absolute high point of the album is track 10, the mysteriously titled “Red Fruit”, which sounds like an analogue jam on a warm afternoon. A close second is the 303 heavy Ambient track “Node” with its constant acid melodies and snappy FX. “Titan” wraps it all up rather nicely by being an extremely deep, slow and relaxing effort which is interesting thanks to its complex layering. 

So is there nothing bad to be said about this album? I find it hard to spot a defect on this release. Of course it sounds a bit dated but that's understandable when the newest track on the album was created and finished 10 years ago. If you look past that fact all that remains is a terrific album which is both dynamic and engaging. An interesting release from back to back and certainly something I will put on repeat for the coming time. So if you're a fan of Carbon Based Lifeforms, Sync24 or of Ultimae Records (although, surprisingly, this particular album is released on Leftfield Records) entirely you cannot miss this well-crafted album by one of ambient's finest.


Friday, 26 October 2012

Pop Corner: Nicki Minaj - The Boys

I wish Nicki Minaj would release something worthwhile. I'm not the designated pop reporter, however I feel the need to comment on Nicki Minaj whenever I feel bothered by her recording and visual presence. And this time, it's not only the track that makes no sense because the video is a complete mindfuck. "TheBoys" is Minaj's latest single featuring R&B starlet Cassie. No offence to Cassie, but when she's put alongside Minaj, she looks and sounds like a Ferrari, as opposed to a Rover. It's just a shame Cassie lowers her standards in the god awful skimpy video.

I'm just five seconds into listening to The Boys and I hear Minaj rap "Pull up." I'm straight up pissed off that Minaj continues to use the same fucking lyric in pretty much every track. I mean, why? What is the fucking point of having the same imagery in every track? She pulls up in a car, and then all hell breaks loose, that's the moral to every Minaj track. It's like everything is perfect until Minaj opens her mouth and releases the words 'pull' and 'up'. I'm sick of it.

Ignoring my distress Minaj clearly causes me, the actual content is bland, boring and washed-up. The electronic beat is nothing new or unique at all. It's like a deformed Daft Punk mixed with an enraged vocalist with a nice soul singer for the chorus. Now the acoustic guitar works with Cassie, this is a positive. Everything else on this track is a negative. Cassie does have a few verses, where she uses auto tune, pathetically.

Nicki Minaj is not a hip-hop artist at all. She's straight up pop and releasing this single is just another calling card for her to get radio play, fame and more money to spend on boys. IRONY ALERT. Yeah, if you like pop music then this could very well be your thing, however it's not the kind of thing children should hear. They should be listening to this reasonably priced Moshi Monster CD that I am advertising because I need Google's money.

Track Review: Briscoe. - Animal

Briscoe. are an exciting and prospective indie pop band from Australia. They're a six piece and are on the verge of releasing their debut album, distributed by MGM, the place where all the hip and fortunate Australian independent artists flock to. What we have is a single with elegance and satisfaction that leaves the listener with a wanting desire for more. This track is pleasantly surprising because it's actually quite good.

"Animal" opens with a rather simple acoustic guitar riff and a killer opening lyric. What comes next is quite spectacular for a debut single. The chorus kicks in and the 60s pop-esque sounds come flooding through. The piano, the light bass and the acoustic guitar are all perfect and match with the lead guitars easy laidback sound. Think The Beatles when they were good in the late 60s / early 70s.  This is the sort of track you can imagine hearing in a montage scene in a Hollywood movie. A highly important and rich business man is left by his wife; and he's just wandering the streets of New York City, brilliant.