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Showing posts from May, 2017

Review: Ohrwert – The Ambex Project (2016)

Ohrwert has long produced both Dub Techno and beatless Ambient recordings (the latter under his real name, Arjen Schat). He's a master of both forms, with his Dub Techno varying between deep mysteriousness and upbeat jams, and his Ambient recording covering sequential compositions, Drone Ambient, and even the occasional step into Dark Ambient.

With his album Ambex Project (, he blends the two styles into a seamless experience, by making a set of tracks that sit at varying locations on a continuum from being heavily rhythmic to a carefully constructed drone.

As usual for his work, the quality of the sound staging is impeccable. I recommend listening to this in a quiet room with either good headphones or a stereo with really good imaging. Formally, most of the tracks are quite sparse in terms of composition. But what they lack in density of elements they surely make up for with beautiful sonic texturing.

The opener starts us with a sp…

Interview: Bola

A little while ago, I asked Bola (Darrel Fitton) if he would kindly answer a text interview. He said he would, and another little while later, the following text file arrived. My questions are in italics, his answers follow. At the time of posting, he has a new album on the way, D.E.G! See his artist page at Skam Records here: Skam Records

On a personal note, I am so thrilled to have the honor of posting this. Bola is one of my favorite artists, and I am terribly grateful that he took the time to give us this interesting insight into his work.

How did you get started in music?
I've played piano from about the age of 7 and that's probably why I still have classical leanings, but I would say my first introduction to something resembling contemporary music would have been through my skateboarding buddies at about 14 years old. Those guys were all a bit more clued up in most things than me back then.. and I guess being part of that crew led me to being introduced to al…

Review: Zzzzra – Vive la Lenteur (2014)

When we think of Dub Techno, the names Deepchord, Basic Channel, and Andy Stott come to mind. Over the past several years, Zzzzra has been releasing great Dub Techno albums one after another, and in my opinion, he belongs on that list.

Vive la Lenteur is a double-disc set of tracks released on Brian Grainger’s Recycled Plastics label, and it’s another great set. There’s a single-disc edition of this release, but it’s a combined group of tracks from both parts of the double; I’ll be writing about the double.

Last.FM (I’m almo2001 there) tells me that as I listen to the opening track, “Il N’y A Pas De Fin”, that I have heard it at least 34 times. I’m hearing things I have not heard before. This means that while the music is fairly minimalist as Dub Techno usually is, that it has a lot of layers and subtlety to it. It has a warm and calming sound, but there’s subtle distortion on some parts of it that give it an edge. On a personal note, I find that there is gentle music that I find lack…

Review: Low Orbit Satellite – Disposal Orbit (2014)

Recently, I came across a really interesting Techno album. Someone bought some music I recommended on Bandcamp, so I looked at what else they liked, and found it there. I was attracted initially by the name of the artist and the stark image of Sputnik on the cover. I was hoping for some spacy Techno.

It starts right in with a raw Roland 303 bassline, on a track aptly-named “303 Walk With Me”. Within a minute as the atmospherics kicked in, I was thinking, “Yup, spacy Techno!”

Through the rest of its 50-minute running time, I was not disappointed with anything I heard. Compositionally, it sounds like Techno from the early to mid 1990s, but sonically it’s very up-to-date.

While being quite consistent in its sound, there is variety to be had. Unsyncc brings in dubby elements and a bouncier sound, to great effect. Immediately after, we get Wiredbx which has a heavy and oppressive vibe. Then Libration Point lightens up again. Near the end we get Dumbells, which sounds more like Acid Techno.…

Review: Monolake – Ghosts (2012)

I have been going through Monolake’s back catalog since discovering the excellent Reminiscence from 2003’s Momentum release in the summer of 2011. After getting started in a style closer to Dub Techno on the venerable Chain Reaction label, they subsequently have gone through some different styles. After the transitional Interstate followed a set of four LPs (Gravity, Cinemascope, Momentum and Polygon_Cities) which showed a minimalist approach to Ambient Techno with dubby elements. These four LPs show a steady move toward darker atmospheres, leading to the phase Monolake now occupies, which consists of Silence and the recently-released Ghosts.

We are told that Silence and Ghosts are the first two of a trilogy of works. Ghosts shares with Silence a focus on quality of sound rather than composition. Not that there is no composition at work, just that it seems subservient to the sounds themselves.

The eleven tracks are all shorter than 6 minutes, with the exceptions of Phenomenon (at exactl…

Review: Rod Modell Plays Michael Mantra (2007)

This is a very unusual work, with two 30-minute tracks, each of which has a 2-bar melody that repeats all the way through. Does this work? First, let me describe how AM radio works.

There is a carrier radio wave, at a certain frequency. The number of the station refers to its carrier-wave frequency. So if you tune your radio to AM 830, that’s a station with a carrier signal at 830 kHz. Your radio generates a wave at this frequency, and some circuitry detects the difference between that and the incoming signal. The signal coming in has sound information encoded in it, on top of the carrier wave.

So the carrier wave functions as a zero point, and the sounds are generated by differences between the signal and the original carrier wave. This album seems to function in this way. The repeating melodies are the carrier wave, and should fade from focus in your consciousness. That sets the mood and atmosphere, and the things that change around it are where the music is.

So to answer the questi…

Review: Autechre – Tri Repetae (1995)

I came to know of Tri Repetae rather late. I only started listening to electronic music in earnest around 1995 when a friend sent me a tape of Orbital’s Snivilization. I started going through the Autechre catalog one at a time somewhere around 2009, and came to Tri Repetae in 2010. By then, it was 15-year old music, but it did not fail to impress me; electronic music was moving fast in the 90s, so this alone says something about it.

I had given both Incunabula and Amber (the two preceding albums) plenty of time to understand them, since I was aware from my readings that Tri Repetae was a significant leap beyond them, and I wanted to feel that. These are both solid works, and I recommend them in their own right.

There are some albums that you know are special within five or ten seconds; this is one of them. As soon as the opening bass pulse of Dael finishes a cycle or two, you think you’re in for something different. Fortunately, the album does not fail to deliver on its first promise.