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Monthly Archives: January 2009

Dumb review down there. This is probably Tim Hecker’s best, so if you liked HARMONY IN ULTRAVIOLET, you’ll like this. If haven’t heard him before, it’s probably the best ambient album of the year so far. -Ian!

Canadian ambient producer Tim Hecker will dream up his usual vistas of sound later this year when he releases his first proper full-length on Kranky in more than two years.

An Imaginary Country is the name, and as anyone familiar with his past work can guess, abstract masses of sound is the game. Many of the tracks on the record reference water and its perhaps one of the best ways to think about these slow-moving tunes that seem to wash over the listener. Hecker had a relatively quiet 2008, with only a collaboration with Aidan Baker on Alien8 to show for his recorded efforts. We expect that much of the year was spent holed up recording An Imaginary Country and, upon first listen, we’d like to tell you that it was worth the wait. But, objectivity unfortunately doesn’t allow us to do so. Luckily, the wait will be a short one, as it’s due out in February.


Greg Sanders, AKA Distance, is a producer who has always been vocal about his love for metal music. He and Vex’d turned in a devastating mix for Radio 1 back in February of this year, which featured tracks from Khanate and Isis going head-to-head with dark garage drum patterns. Hearing these types of variant stlyes placed next to one another made perfect sense, as both Sanders and doom metal overlords Sunn O))) craft their sound out of seismic basslines and brown note frequencies.

Sanders, clearly, isn’t making music that you’ll hum and latch onto instantly, he’s making music that siphons its way into your organs when it’s boomed at you through immense speaker stacks in darkened rooms. And, as a result, a lot of this music’s weight and impact is completely lost in headphones; it’s melodically sparse, sitting on bleak phrase harmonics and stabs of intricately treated guitars with some thunder chunky snares hitting on every three count to regiment things and keep the groove moving.

“Koncrete” is the first moment when Sanders really turns his second album, Repercussions, into shrivel lip/scrunch nose territory. It’s here that the perforated bass riff starts seething at the edges and driving the gritty waves of atmosphere deep into your belly. Similarly, the title track is a detuned stomper that echoes in on itself gloriously, while “Mirror Tell” is a lesson in letting touches of mottled guitar distortion colour your soundscape just enough to really make it bump real eerie-like.

There may be definite structural formulas that Sanders adheres to; the way he slopes off into his breakdowns, muting the drum section definitely works to change the pace and fool any overzealous raver’s movement on the dance floor, but it can feel predictable over the course of an album. It shouldn’t be considered uninspired though; it simply means Sanders is carving his productions with DJs in mind, providing others the chance to smash the room on a double drop with one of his tunes.

With My Demons, Sanders garnered the prestigious title of Dubstep Forum’s 2007 Album of the Year. Repercussions is a much fuller exploration of the metal-influenced, spooked-out atmosphere that emanates from Sanders’ snatched moments of guitar feedback and crunchy bass riffs. With such engrossing skeletal percussion backing these heavyweight plates, he’s more than likely to be in the running to win the same accolade again this year.


Distance-REPERCUSSIONS (2009)

Single best thing I’ve played on my stereo so far this year. -Ian!

Group Bombino is the latest salvo from the Agadez music scene. Led by the guitar virtuoso Omara Mochtar (Bombino), the group’s debut LP– Volume two in the Guitars from Agadez series, represents the latest chapter in the modern sound of the Tuareg revolution. As of 2008, the Tuareg rebellion is in full force again, and Bombino is in exile to parts unknown. Agadez has been cut off from the rest of Niger. The only road that connects this legendary city with the rest of the country is littered with land mines and the only escorts are the military. This music and its messages of hope, justice, and desire for validation of the Kel Tamachek way of life ring louder than ever. Group Bombino are gaining mythic status in and around the Tuareg community for their incendiary live performances. Coming from the same scene as Group Inerane and sharing some of the same musicians, Group Bombino showcase both sides of the Tuareg Guitar style. Side one features the “Dry Guitar” sound, an unplugged selection of songs sung among the dunes and stars of the Tenere desert. Side two showcases the electric fury of the full band, a melding of heavy, psychedelic guitar heroics with a raw garage sound, back beat percussion, all swirling in extended trance rock moves. Recorded live and unfiltered in Agadez and the surrounding desert in early 2007, with the band’s equipment powered by generators and an unflinching dedication to the rebellion, Group Bombino’s music transcends any influence and ignites the raw passion of its message to the outside world. This is a one-time pressing of 1,500 copies. Pressed on 180 gram vinyl and comes in a gatefold full color jacket stocked with great photos of the musicians and liner notes by Hisham Mayet.

Group Bombino-GUITARS FROM AGADEZ VOL. 2 (2009)
320kbps vinyl rip

The best music is from New Jersey -Ian!

New Jersey band the Black Hollies, directly inspired by 60’s band like the Yardbirds and Blue Cheer, have followed up their debut with an album of full on psychedelic rock, complete with groovy, mind expanding lyrics, copious sitars, occasional Farfisa organs and quavering vocals and guitars. I don’t think the music on Casting Shadows will strike most listeners as being like 60’s psychedelic rock, but rather that is psychedelic rock from the 60’s. It’s conceived, played and even produced like an album from that period, though all the tracks are original Black Hollies compositions. Once you let yourself get into the spirit of things, the songs themselves are pretty irresistible, skilfully played, unpretentious, highly danceable and just great fun to listen to, all in all. The first single, “Paisley Pattern Ground,” is a definite must hear. Other standout cuts: “The Autumn Chateau,” “Hamilton Park Ballerina” and “Running Through My Mind.”

The Black Hollies-CASTING SHADOWS (2008)

Holy moly! -Ian!

Graham Day (The Prisoners, Prime Movers, The Solar Flares) and The Gaolers put out great classic garage with a modern punk appeal. They hailed from the Medway Delta in England, and he Gaolers have the Eric Burdon and The Animals sound down pat on “Better Man.” This is pure gold for fans of the blue-eyed soul groups of the ’60s, like The Box Tops, and R&B rock of The Yardbirds. The White Stripes wishes they could sound this authentic and melodic as well. The rocking “Begging You” will get you moving from the opening piano and guitar riff. And the electric sitar/guitar combo of “Pass That Whiskey” is a great intro to a modern Raspberries-like melody. The aggressive “Wanna Smoke” is typical of the tunes here, with a driving beat and a snarl which has been perfectly captured in a simple arrangement.

Yet Graham Day’s lyrics are completely legible and his vocals are tough, but not raspy (a common issue with retro beat bands). They also do a great job with the sound here, no overdone fuzztones or sonic distortions. Like in the the tune “Just A Song” Day sings “Don’t judge me/begrudge me, it’s just a song”- well it’s a damn fine song I’ll give you that. Place a copy of this with your early Who albums, or more recent bands like The Cynics and The Ugly Beats as one of the best in the genre.

Graham Day & The Gaolers-TRIPLE DISTILLED (2008)

The leap from the 12″ to the full-length might seem like a large one for dancefloor-oriented producers and DJs, but the results are stunning when they land on their feet. Those warming to recent albums by Benga, Burial and Pinch will also like 2562’s Aerial, which incorporates two massive 12″s for Pinch’s Bristol-based Tectonic imprint into the long-player format. As was the case with Benga’s Diary of an Afro Warrior, there are two versions of the record on the market: the CD version and the double-LP, which vary significantly in track selection and sequence (the LP contains two exclusive tracks omitted from the digital version). Since I only had access to the CD installment (littered with pesky anti-piracy promotional reminders), that’s the one that will be the subject here.

Aerial is another landmark for dubstep. Producer Dave Huismans hails from the Hague and operates just outside the genre’s British breeding ground, allowing him to mold his own aesthetic from materials previously exhibited in locales from Bristol to Berlin. Though Huismans also records under the name A Made Up Sound, his current 2562 moniker is derived from his home district code – a choice that seems to proudly proclaim his distance from South London’s dubstep ground zero. He makes sparse and simple tracks that allow their digital pieces plenty of room to breathe, gradually building tension in the empty space between bass drops. While the tempos vary widely, Huismans works mainly within a solidly techno-dub framework but still manages to be forward-thinking. The low-end sounds are Huismans’ biggest strength; they nod to the Jamaican soundsystem influence that is so prevalent in the genre. Much of their chest-caving effect will be lost if you don’t have a decent woofer handy, so don’t be disappointed if your speakers can’t keep up with Aerial’s density.

“Redux” begins the record leisurely, gently coaxing the listener in with a lazy dub shuffle. The breezy beginning threw me off at first, but Huismans flexes his muscles on “Morven” with one of the catchiest bass lines I’ve heard in months. He proceeds to slay for the rest of the album, with beats that are effortless and inviting – never too aggressive, but ever-engaging. The production values on Aerial are unmatched in their clarity, descending into the dungeon of Skull Disco while also incorporating the meticulous minimalism of Basic Channel.

All the tracks have their own appeal, but the standouts are obvious. The disorienting “Techno Dread” (from an earlier Tectonic single) rides a roller coaster of bass frequencies. The track’s accompanying B-side, “Enforcer,” is equally massive–it’s no wonder that the single was one of the hottest items in Tectonic’s catalog. The momentum of the album doesn’t wane until the closing track, “The Times,” which slowly sinks into a sweaty pool of exasperation.

In light of its heavy reliance on minimalism and wordless compositions, Aerial doesn’t quite possess the crossover potential of Burial’s Untrue or Pinch’s Underwater Dancehall. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t one of the heaviest dubstep-leaning full-lengths to date. This is another stellar transition to album format that works both at home and on the dancefloor. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go buy a copy without the robot promo voice. It may be annoying as shit, but I guess the trick worked, huh?

By Cole Goins,

2562-AERIAL (2008)

Hip-hop’s earliest records often relied on faded, scratchy source material run through entry-level equipment. Even as technology advanced, the grain and the gristle stuck around– sometimes out of necessity, sometimes as an extra ingredient. Over time, those aged, decaying sounds burrowed their way underground to crop up in pockets of IDM, dubstep, and indie hip-hop, resulting in music, built around texture more than bass or treble, that often sounded ragged at birth.

With his second album, Flying Lotus (aka Steven Ellison) has mastered this texture. Los Angeles is filled with the crackle of static, but there’s something about this ambient noise– a nuisance to audiophiles, a sign of weakness in radio signals– that feels oddly comforting. Rather than audio damage or interference, this deceptively entrancing record (stick with it, it’s a grower) feels like nature; it’s almost as though Ellison went out of his way to digitize and filter the sound of rain hitting a sidewalk to accompany its beats. Opener “Brainfeeder” bristles with sharp rattling taps, while “Breathe. Something/Stellar STar” transmutes it into boiling-water burble, and even the 1960s sci-fi foley-room chatter on the 43-second “Orbit 405” is underpinned by snarling, distorted, pre-amp buzz. It sounds less like an album built on damaged, beat-up, pre-existing vinyl loops than a clean, shiny new LP put through four decades’ worth of wear and mishandling.

The static, of course, is just a single (if crucial) ingredient in the character of Los Angeles: What this album relies on specifically is the way that crackle and buzz reacts to the rhythm at the core. Flying Lotus shares passing similarities to the late J Dilla and fellow Cali beat creator Madlib in the way he puts together his beats, and it’s not hard to hear touches of James Yancey’s Ummah-era production tricks infused with the same off-kilter slipperiness you might find on a recent Beat Konducta release. And in Ellison’s hands, these tricks are stridently odd where they could have been safely derivative, revealing a deep affinity for psychedelic lushness and digital distortion that puts him in his own class.

Los Angeles is also prone to letting its beats hang loosely in the air. Ellison often slips empty space inside the rhythm (another place where the ambient static comes in handy), and even when the tempo accelerates past the album’s typical leisurely pace and finds itself driving a track packed with wall-to-wall bass, little of it seems hectic or jarring– even the jittery tweaker-electro of “Parisian Goldfish” smoothes out into a pleasant pulse once it sets in. At its most stirring moments, the music can be soothingly meditative, though the booming low-end, sharp drums, and all that crackle and fuzz keep it from sounding too polite. With its accomplished fusion of debris and warmth in a place somewhere between b-boy head-nod and laptopper experimentalism, Los Angeles is a big step forward for a still-young career, an album well worth revisiting years from now– preferably on vinyl, where the pops and clicks can only multiply.

Flying Lotus-LOS ANGELES (2008)