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Interview: Arjen Schat

Sometime around 2011, I bumped into Waveform Transmission's "V1.0-V1.9" release, which is a really interesting Dark Ambient album. It's quite obscure and hard-to-find, so I found a download on an obscure music blog in order to listen to the whole thing before trying to hunt down a CD to buy. Rod Modell worked on that, and when I hunted for his other stuff, I first found Dub Techno. Going back to the music blog, the author had just posted that he was listening to some quality Dub Techno by Ohrwert, called "Yesteryear".

This was my first introduction to the musical world of Arjen Schat, a composer from the Netherlands who works in several different genres of electronic music. Over the years since finding his music, I've been quite interested to see how his styles have evolved. Recently I felt I had enough understanding to do an interview with him to get some inside information on how he works. He was kind enough to answer my questions; many thanks to him …
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Track Analysis: Mikrokristal & Echo Delta – Summer Rain (2015)

A while back, a netlabel whose music I like to listen to mailed me to say there was this release:

https://coldtearrecords.bandcamp.com/track/summer-rain

It's part of a 6-track album, and it immediately struck me as an amazing piece of music.

It starts with something that is pretty common in music that includes field recordings: 30 seconds of rain. It sets the mood well for what is to come. The type of rain in the recording and the first hints of percussion suggest light summer rain, as opposed to a deluge.

The first two synth elements to arrive are in minor key, and continue the gentle nature of the sounds. The first is a little sharper, the second has a cleaner and more rounded sound. Already there's a nice mix of sound types, and that variety continues as it goes.

The kick drum shows up along with another new synth sound, this one more melodic than the previous ones.

Around 1:30 the rain is fading out, as yet another synth element is added to the mix. This one is a harmonic …

Review: Mingle – Ephemeral (2017)

I found this album because it was recommended by Plaster (http://shop.kvitnu.com/album/mainframe) on Facebook, as it's composed by someone he knows. I feel pretty lucky about that; I'm not sure how I would have come across this otherwise!

Available from Kvitnu (http://shop.kvitnu.com/album/ephemeral), it's an interesting blend of "gentle" and "edgy". I don't use the word "edgy" lightly, as it has been overused in recent years. Just follow the link and give the first track, "Drop Yourself", a listen and you'll see what I mean. It's rather quiet, and nothing abrupt or jarring happens in it; yet many of the sounds themselves have a harsh edge to them. It builds intensity, but in a way I've not heard very often in other music. I'm having a hard time describing it... I'll just say that the resulting experience is greater than the sum of its parts. It's one of the times when on first listen the first track set m…

A bunch of electronic EPs

In the various worlds of the different kinds of Techno, EPs are common. 2-4 track mini-albums that the artist felt was a compelete set for whatever unknown reason. It's hard to write a complete review of these small packs of music, but I feel several of them are worthy of attention. So I'll list several here with brief comments about why I think they're good. They're in reverse alphabetical order; no ranking is intended.


Yernesto - In Too Deep (Dub Techno)
https://coldtearrecords.bandcamp.com/album/yernesto-in-too-deep

Dub Techno rides a line between Techno and Dub, and there's a certain sweet spot that I really like. I prefer no vocal samples, and few to no Roland 909 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEFEivTgNVI) samples. The 909 has been ubiquitous in popular music since its introduction in 1983, and I'm just tired of hearing those sounds over and over.

Yernesto's release "In Too Deep" hits all the right buttons for me to like it. Deep grooves, …

Review: Optical Frameworks – Vertigo (2014)

Vertigo by Optical Frameworks is a quiet Dub Techno record that gives me the strangest feeling that it's been in my collection for 20 years. I don't know why I get this sense of familiarity and nostalgia when I play it; this isn't something I've experienced before. I love this strange sense it gives me every time I hear it. This is the work of one Martin Dlabaja, whose artist page lists the Czech Republic as his place of origin.

The sound of the album includes some Dark Ambient mixed in with varying amounts from track to track, resulting in a quiet, thoughtful, foggy sort of atmosphere. The opener, "I Will Wait for You", is beatless, with a few string instruments on top of what sounds like road noise with a lot of overlaid static. The slow-moving brooding of this track sets the tone for the rest of the album.

"B52 Rebuff" brings in a beat, though it's not super-heavy. A few quiet overheard vocal samples mill around in the background. In usual Du…

Review: DJ Storm – Kicks, Snares & Hi Hats, Vol. 01 (2016)

In the early 90s, I discovered that there were certain threads in the Hip Hop world that I liked. Eric B & Rakim, Ice T, Method Man (well, the first album anyway), and some others. As the genre drifted further into the mainstream, I found I liked less of it, and have been away from that universe for quite some time. Maybe my problem was just that I didn't know where to look. At any rate, DJ Storm has released a collection of tracks that recall that era in Hip Hop, while maintaining a more modern sound in terms of its recording engineering.

It features a large number of guest MCs who have a variety of styles ranging from more serious to very playful. I find myself actually laughing sometimes at funny lyrics delivered with good timing. The common thread among the tracks is Storm's attention to detail and flair for sticking firmly with a certain Golden-Era sensibility while keeping them all from sounding the same.

From the first track, "Back", we have a good sense o…

First Listen Impression: Bola – D.E.G (2017)

I finally got a quiet hour to listen to Bola's new album, D.E.G. As usual, Bola hits a very high level of sonic quality in both engineering and composition. Listeners familiar with his other work will recognize certain techniques he uses (glitch, juxtaposed harsh and gentle textures, unusual chord structures, etc); but D.E.G is both recognizable as Bola and very fresh at the same time. (Don't miss my interview with the artist)

Three of the tracks struck me on my first trip through the album. First was "Herzzatzz", which is considerably heavier than the opener. It has a sound reminiscent of tracks from Gnayse (2004), maintaining a heavy groove with haunting melodies above.

"Pelomen Vapour 2" is also quite heavy. I think my preference for intricate and heavy compositions may be showing, but I found this one really interesting. The bassline that appears around 3:00 has a great sound to it.

As is customary for a Bola album, it finishes with a poignant and thoug…