As small of an island it may be, Iceland has produced some real pacesetters for the world of music. Sigur Ros, Björk and Exos are just some the names that can be drawn from the hat. ‘Being super bored and stuck on an island…could be the answer’ claims Bjarki, the latest international export from the country’s Underground scene. Another longstanding name that has been bubbling above the surface levels since the mid 1990s is the Reykjavík duo GusGus. A collaboration of Biggi Veira and Daníel Ágúst, the act has been responsible for a number of deviceful hits that include ‘Arabian Horse’ and ‘Over’, as well as a a memorable King Britt remix of their track ‘David’. Their signature parading sound is often affiliated with powered vocals. ‘Fuel’, however, further spotlights the duo’s instrumentation capabilities. Coming from their 2018 album ‘Lies Are More Flexible’ it is a slow-footed synthesis giant.
Released by Oroom, the track can be best described as being a 110 BPM fusion of Trance, Ambient & Electro. Biggi claims the introduction to the acclaimed Belgian composer Jean Michel Jarre‘s album ‘Oxygen’ broadened his perspective to the possibilities of musical composition. The sound of that particular era is returned to here. The track echoes the aesthetic of the album that aims to explore ‘strange chord structures and arpeggios of the old synth wave stuff back in 78-82‘. Subversively, however, elements of future sounds are incorporated, with 1990s Progressive House breakdowns taking centre stage. Transcending of genres has always been common trait for the duo, bolstering a discography that includes everything from synth pop to dub techno. The track’s underlining feature that glues all the fragments together is the perpetual modulation. Shifting its form even through the introductions of Cattáneonian vocals and layered synths, the ever-changing intonation gives the track its spirit. Continue reading →
“Music is like sculpture. It’s like trying to capture a moment of ultimate momentum, and distill it forever“. These are the words that accompany Chris Clark’s track ‘Unfurla’, released under his Clark alias. If such perspective is to be adopted, then the producer is the Auguste Rodin of his respective field. Drowned In Sound describes him as ‘a cut above most of his peers when it [comes] to sheer technical and compositional wizardry‘. After all it is no easy feat to land an album on Warp Records, an outlet that has released the works of dexterous artists such as Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin & Oneohtrix Point Never. ‘Unfurla’ is his 2014 release on the label, coming from his self-titled album. The Progressive Techno whopper has been adequately described as “a near perfect distillation of his oeuvre“.
What characterises ‘ Unfurla’ the most is the pulsating momentum that breathes with a continuous sense of unpredictability. The introduction combines a wet kick with a heavily-distorted bassline, reminding of Laurent Garnier’s 1997 classic ‘Crispy Bacon‘. Yet one minute in you are introduced to an extract of a grand piano being played through a hallway reverb-filter. The two concepts should not possibly co-exist in theory, and Clark’s ability to combine these is therefore impressive. Such elements manifest the spirit of Electronica and IDM genres, with the influence of Amon Tobin particularly noticeable. The ease at which the tone of the track shifts from Bastinov’s ‘Prisma‘-like leading synth to woodwind instrumentation breakdown is tantalizing. The final third of the track resists the temptation to return to its prior state, opting for a cello-leading outro that is more sombre in its tenor. Despite a runtime that falls below the six minute mark, the listener is left with a three-part story that satisfies the senses akin to a blockbuster flick. Continue reading →
Jon Hopkins’ ‘Singularity‘ album featured sounds as dense as Beijing’s pollution during peak-hour traffic. Leading from the front, the title track ‘Singularity‘ announces itself more grandly than the UEFA Champions League final. Exploding into the oblivion and giving semblance to its title, the track leaves the listener begging for more. Step forth Brazilian-born artist ANNA. Though the DJ Awards carry less weight than a Trump speech on Russian collusion, her 2016 Breakthrough Artist of the Year award was fully deserved. It was almost impossible to have avoided hearing her Kompakt backed track ‘Hidden Beauties‘ feature in any of the headlining Techno sets of that year. With fine releases supported by labels such as Terminal M, Tronic and Toolroom being delivered since 2012, it was only a matter of time before ANNA reached peakdom. Some can let the pressure of a massive hit get to them – not for ANNA it seems. Continuing her hot streak form, her ‘Singularity’ remix keeps her unequivocally in the limelight.
According to Resident Advisor, the original track utilised field recordings of thunder. ‘The track is supposed to have a dangerous, foreboding sound to it‘ explained Hopkins in his ‘Machine Love’ feature. It’s a thing of uncanny beauty in the way the elements drone. On her remix, ANNA decides to paint a picture of the entire world encountering an apocalyptic thunderstorm at once. The track starts with the use of the original’s swelling drones. While Hopkin’s version unravels in swelling, the bass of the remix drops harder that Thor’s hammer in Ragnarok. It’s a ditto of the ‘Hidden Beauties’ bassline, played in a clockwork rhythm. In conversation with Ask Audio, ANNA recalls that her take was made using the Furthrrrr Generator module. Describing it as mightily powerful is an understatement of titanic proportions. Dropping in a hulking kick and swelling cymbals, the original’s classical organ line simmers over the top. It is a brooding end of the world sound native to a movie such as The Day Earth Stood Still. Stabs of the modulated bassline kick in louder and louder before being held in distortion. It’s heinous, akin to Leatherface obliterating your face with a shotgun. The breakdown retains the instrumentation of the original waiting for the kick to usher back in the remaining elements of the track. This leaves the listener picking up the pieces back together. The end result? Dancefloor destroyed. Continue reading →
Retrofuturism is used to define “the use of a style or aesthetic considered futuristic in an earlier era“. Artists such as Bruce McCall, Frank R. Paul and John Harris painted their visions of the new world. At times, the concept is used for stylistic vision found in Hollywood narratives. The film industry has produced movies like ‘Metropolis‘, ‘Brazil‘ and Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘, each offering their interpretation of the future. A sci-fi environment, of course, needs its own soundtrack. Progressive, psychedelic rock bands such as Pink Floyd formed space-age worlds full of anachronisms. Pioneering Jazz musicians such as Herbie Hancock propagated the branch of Afrofuturism. His 1975 album titled ‘Flood‘ features an album cover featuring an African-American astronaut. Yet none of the music genres come close to fitting as well as the electronic genre. The futurist world of technology gave birth to its soundscapes. Kraftwerk’s album Radio-Activityis an artefact in this respect. Forty years down the line, faint echoes of its phantasm can be traced in modern releases. Judging by his tracks Thomas Clarke, also known as MR TC, is a cum laude student of the German collective. ‘Golden Gate’, his release on Jennifer Cardini’s Correspondant 06 Compilation. The LP combines “palpitating ambience [with] chuggernaut technoid trips“. It is this year’s time travel back to 1970s Düsseldorf.
The track begins with drum instrumentation best described as downtempo Carl A. Finlow. The underscoring arpeggio moves along in an ascending order. Its analogue sound comes close to matching the 1980s soundtracks of Halloween 3 or Videodrome. The lackadaisical tempo gives of a sense of banality. One can imagine a scene of a lonesome robot carrying out its duties on an abandoned starship galaxies far away. All the while random spurts of ray gun and machinery samples lurk in the background. Then enters the liquid sine bells, accompanied by echo and reverb. The nautical sound feels almost doleful, contrasting with the dispassionate laser stabs. The dichotomy between emotion and enginery is united by the kick. The question, however, arises whether this kick belongs to the beating of the heart or the motor of the machine. This concept of man vs. machine was explored by labels such as Dubfire’s SCI+TEC. Using presets that intentionally sound nostalgic, MR TC creates an exhibition of retrofuturist aesthetic that is captivating. Continue reading →
Tehran-born, Frankfurt-based DJ & producer Arian 911 supports a look that would qualify him for the role of Freddie Mercury’s right-hand man. Striking coal-black hair compliment a moustache from the 80s to complete a look that is effortlessly elegant. A fair definition of his music too. To understand the man behind the production, a work of investigation is required. Discogs claims Arian Beheshti was an Ibiza local all the way back in 1993, being a Cocoon Ibiza resident since its inception. This would explain ‘Dadap Dadap‘, his 2009 minimal release on Sven Väth’s label that will leave thirsting for water. Circa. 2013 you’ll find electro releases associated with his name. ‘7 Melodies’, the first of his two inclusions in the annual Innervisions’ Secret Weapons compilation in a row is yet another metamorphosis. A tender form of melodic techno, perhaps one Arian is most suited for.
‘7 Melodies’ states its ambition in the title of the track – to create a multilayered template of intersecting sound palettes. The challenge of such aspiration is the element of solidarity. Ensuring, that all of the sonically elements homogenize rather that compete for airtime. And, in this respect, Arian shows his maturity. The pads shine with phosphorescence like neon lights illuminating the dark. He creates a watercolour painting splashed in colour, a mesmerising experience of synesthesia. The official video is fittingly a mirage that is kaleidoscopic. Innervisions label itself has classified the track as a strain of Deep House, however, this would only be relevant if one is to take 2010s interpretation of the subgenre. More suitability, this is the sound of the self-effacing melodic strains of techno manufactured by such as Roman Flügel, Mano Le Tough & David August. Regardless, the end outcome is euphoric. Continue reading →
Originally released in 2002, ‘Anomoly’ is a low-slung Electro banger that you certainly wouldn’t play at a funeral. Yet is caries the dreariness of a ‘we’ve been partying for a week straight’ after-party scene in an arthouse film. Reissued in 2016 with a remastered version on Maceo Plex’s Lone Romantic, 2020 Vision co-founder Carl A. Finlow’s cut is Hoover Dam water tight on production with the engineering second to none (Okay, Efdemin and Blawan aren’t too bad either). Made at the time when Drexciya claimed their laurels, fellow Electro artists like DHS, Atom TM, B12 and Claro Intelecto certainly would’ve vibed to this.
‘Anomoly’ has a melancholic aura to it in the same vain as DJ Richards Grind LP. Electro can often be interlaced with neighbouring genres such as indie rock. In this instance, the rhythm of the kick is so similar you’d think you were about to listen to a new French-duo Justice track. Bulging lower note synths are panned across your ear cavern like a mist spreading across a barren lake. Moog like dubs thud away, before a brooding and bubbling electro bass enters the fray. Continue reading →
Pretty crazy to think that guys like Benny Rodrigues can go from releasing tracks like ‘Sweet Potatoes’ to Papa Sven’s last summer favourite ‘Hor‘ under his ROD guise. That’s the beauty of underground electronic music though – like a chameleon it supports a range of shades and forms yet still retains the same soul. However building a track with Quince, the author of some high-octane jackin’ tech tunes over the years, was always going to strike gold. Quince & Benny Rodrigues combined in 2006 but released the resulting track in 2010. Distributed by Smallville Records, it’s an ideal fit for the label’s quaint and delicate Deep House cuts. The added dubbyness, however, elevates it to a place that none other can climb. Ultimately making you feel like you’re stuck in a dream.
Space Travel 303
The track is a musical opus dedicated to the Galaxy. With all that’s going on, each element swirls together to create a truely atmospheric experience. Delayed kicks play on every off beat along a simple xylophone beat. Fast Roland TB-303 hats sound like crickets in the forest, as a plodding bassline surfaces. Once you start to get your head around the ambience, a deep acid line spirals into the mix. This is before lush & serene pads kick in fully enveloping all the proceedings like mist within a forest. Beautiful and harmonic, the flutes elevate the track towards a mid-song break down. Emotive chords play autonomously, bringing reverie closer to reality. Continue reading →
Munich DJ and producer Julian Wassermann’s ‘Human’ offers a coalesce of Electronica and techno. Trance-like melodies carry an obvious influence from Sasha’s Airdrawndagger with the structure more closely aligned to Xpander.
With element’s of dub-techno featured, the track offers room for a heavy bass halfway through the track. However, the lush melody maintains its place as the essence of the track throughout. Most fitted to be played by Guy J under the roof of a festival tent in the heat of a scorching summer afternoon.