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 →
The revival of the late 1980s New Beat sound has simmered below the surface of a variety of Underground trends for a while now. Returning at a lower tempo, its releases retain the squalling synths that crown the jolting sound. YouTube channel, label & party promoter Les Yeux Orange (translated as Orange Eyes), has been a notable supplier of tracks that fall under such strain. Proponents of the sound pushed by the French group include Romanian duo Khidja and Moscow-hailing Simple Symmetry, amongst many others. Yan Wagner’s Belgian Trip remix of Bagarre’s electroclash-inspired ‘Le Gouffre’ original is a copybook example of the modern take on the Belgian sound.
The track establishes a cadence from the get-go, with a high-cutoff synth that glazes over the kick. A quintessential reverb-infused snare and clap combo drub with no remorse. The evolving collection of high-pitch synths intermingle to create a symphony that feels Middle-Eastern inspired. However, Wagner restrains himself from ample modulation that would borrow heavily from Acid Arab’s toolkit. The vocals that enter around the three minute mark are irregular in delivery. Providing tremendous inflection, they remind of the Robotiko Rejekto’s 1987 EBM classic ‘Rejekto!‘. Reflective of the track’s spirit, Bagarre translates as brawl, while ‘Le Gouffre’ means the gulf. With a breakdown that scales down to a single element outside of percussions, the structuring of 101’s ‘Rock To The Beat‘ is dexterously applied. The end result is a sirenic admix of chaotic sounds that have been blended to chill the spine.
You’ve got to hand it to those YouTubers who are the heroes we need but do not deserve. A vehicle for upcoming artists to get their music promoted, it certainly has its uses on the other side of the spectrum. Frontleft365 covered some of these in their fantastic feature that included interviews with Houseum, Slav and CMYK. Growing in number, such channels have offered not only exposure for those looking to get their name out, but also serving as inspiration to fellow producers. These have been in particular rich in genres of early 90’s IDM, ambient, breaks, jungle, techno and trance. Thessa Torsing aka Upsammy’s 2018 Dekmantel set was a beautiful, meandering sound safari covering the aforementioned genres with a retro tint. Hailing from the Netherlands, her ascendency has been no short of paramount, rapidly moving from playing in local clubs to nights at Panorama Bar. Her productions have been cherished and treasured, bringing a mix of breaks, Techno, IDM, ambient and Trance. Releases on Whities & Die Orakel gathered great attention, called upon by Mr Fingers for a remix alongside Joey Anderson and Kode9. ‘Another Place’, the titular cut on her 2018 debut EP on Rotterdam Label Nous’Klaer, is a mutative beast that is utterly mesmeric.
In conversation with DeSchool, Upsammy recalled her father having “loads of electronic mix CD’s, like Tiësto’s Forbidden Paradise, so [Torsing] listened to those.. growing up. Another major influence was MTV Lounge Vol. 3, with artists like Moby and The Future Sound Of London‘. ‘Another Place’ is an emotion-led, retro futuristic track, cut with a different cloth that uses the same blueprint. Pick any track from the nostalgic YouTube Channel, 2trancentral and you’ll find the same esoteric tropes written all over. Indulged in delay from the off, chimes and a bleep knock echo and streak through both ear canals. An drum pattern that goes into double-time on the second 4/4 beat keeps things off kilter. This all happens before a razoring dubstep & techno hybrid bassline, akin to one found in A Made Up Sound‘s (aka 2562) ‘Crisis’ enters. It also carries the same urgency as of Shed’s ‘Wax 1001B‘ acid lick. Blissful and alien synth-lines supersaw and oscillate, sounding straight out of a Roland J-8000 or Access Virus A/B textbook. Droplet sounds play out in assorted patterns in the background, before a minute long breakdown set ups the most euphoric of atmospheres. The bass then drops combined with the precision of the cymbals to truly transport the listener to a place far distant. Continue reading →
While many producers opt for a sound pallets which seamlessly compliment the kick, idiosyncratic production can often strike gold. Floridian DJ Daniel Gomez, better known by his stage name Danny Daze, has a special fondness for avant-garde computerised sounds, as shown in his FACT Magazine Against The Clock segment. Claiming in his interview with Electronic Groove that most of his “influences come from the melting pot that is Miami”, Daze ravels in versatility. His own catalogue is a testament to such approach. You can find releases ranging from his caliginous Hot Creations Deep House collaboration with Louisahhh to the synth-parading Kompakt anthem ‘Swim’. CRRSD describe his sounds as “esoteric and cerebral”. ‘Silicon’, Daze’s 2014 release on Jimmy Edgar’s Ultramajic imprint embraces such label with delight, a track that erupts like a typhoon onto the dancefloor.
A trembling bassline that interlinks with the hissing white noise ushering the intro of track hints at an upcoming zonked experience. The shredded yet deviant rhythm it brings is optimal for a peak-hour set of a spaced-out night. Heavily-indebted to the influence of Miami Bass, the thickset sound bridges the Miami-Detroit connection. ‘My girl is made ofsilicone‘ repeats an extraterrestrial voice you’d associate with a Green Velvet release. The “droning synths“, however, are the limelight of the track. Given unrestricted freedom to roam like a Pitbull with rabies, the stentorian frequencies squawk, shriek and squeal piercingly. The reverberate was most likely created using Roland JP-8080, a piece of hardware Daze told Music Radar he uses for the “drone” sound in his production. The merit of an electronic track with a consistent 4/4 beat opens up a sphere for layering textured experimentation. Halfway through, the producer tones the lower EQs down, granting the squelches the platform they deserve. Krautrockian pads daintily float for a few bars before the hammering kick resumes the party. Matthew Dear’s Audion alias is responsible for equally vanguard production. 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 →
Released in 2009 on his Berlin-based Best Works Records, André Lodemann’s ‘Where Are You Now’ is a triumph for uncompromised artistry. The DJ and producer’s versatility has been evident over the years, ranging from the tailor cut deep house cuts like ‘Don’t Panic‘ to downtempo, tranquil Freerange release of ‘Together‘. Yet the mind boggles when you realise that the very same hands were behind the today’s featured track, which has entertained the crowds of some of the biggest clubs in the scene. Masterfully maintaining an equilibrium between that which moves the feet, and that which touches the soul, the track is yet another top-tier German export. The latest release from Lodemann ‘The Deeper You Go’ sounds a return to progressive house with a fresh perspective. To anyone that listens to ‘Where Are You Now’, it should make it clear that this is something to be excited about.
Core to the track is the clash of synth-heath topline that flirts with ambient pads, and the conventions of a bassline-heavy tech-house romper. These two unendingly interchange throughout the runtime. The dominance of trance-inspired progressive house mainstream artists such as Deadmau5 has leaked some of its influence onto the track. Sylenth 1 patch synths will be familiar to those producer out there who have flirted with the VST. The delayed release of the leading synth that infiltrates the lower EQs sporadically creates a sense of tension that is elevated by the breakdown. Then around the 5.50 mark the kooky riff drops leaving the listener in ecstasy. The previously bellicose synths now join in the dance providing an amicable conclusion to the track, with the ambient soundscapes completing the communion of the trinity. A YouTube commentator described it ‘Like a deep house cousin to nthng’s ‘Oralage‘. Lodemann’s refusal to play to the rules is rewarding for the listener. Continue reading →
Madrid-hailed Miguel Barrios possesses a rare singer-producer combo that has enriched both sides of the coin. Working under his Pional moniker, he has spent the last decade featuring on a number of respectable underground labels. Most recognised from his fellow Spaniard John Talabot’s ‘Destiny‘ track, his vocals hold an empyrean quality that would grace the lead of an indie band. The chameleon-like approach to production, likely owed to his multi-instrumentalism, ensures his production is forever on a mission to reinvent itself.
Young Turks associate’s latest release ‘XME’ is his first on Phonica Records, a label that holds a special place in our hearts. Displaying his signature sound that fuses morose with rhythm, its comes as A1 track of the EP. In the spirit of releases from his fellow Hivern Discs compatriots, tracks from Pional tend to brandish drum patterns that sound greatly agrestic. The tribal drum used in substitute of a snare on the track gives it a verve that feels Mother Natured. Warping, low cutoff bassline cambers in rhythm, giving guidance to the synthlines that dazzle the show. Continue reading →
Timothy J. Fairplay has always considered himself to be an outsider. In the 2013 interview with FACT magazine, Fairplay claimed to be a contrarian. Such a left field approach is none more evident than in his musical output, which plated in eccentricity and outré. Pure Hex retains such signature caprice while offering a bangers that’s a universal floor-filler. Released last year on the Nocta Numerica label, its unashamedly extraterrestrial. Like other label’s contemporary releases, the ambience created by the track is akin to a Nicolas Winding Refn OST. All the while maintaining an energy that is enticing in vein similar to Smith N Hack’s track ‘Falling Stars‘
The artwork featuring a 1980s television set up is a perfect embodiment of the track’s substance. Immediately you’re introduced to synths that sound similar to a martian raygun. The production is a love letter to the decade’s now infamous B-side sci-fi flicks. Continue reading →