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Click on the cover to access the Rephlex website


Rephlex 2004
12 Tracks. 59mins14secs 

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Breakbeat has exhibited an incredible tenaciousness since it infected popular music in 1974. The victim in that case was one Kool Herc in the West Bronx and hip-hop was the epidemic that followed. The second outbreak occurred at the beginning of the nineties in the UK. Beat scientists traced the virus’s inception back to 1959, to the B-side of the only hit by a little known soul group called The Winstons. That track, an instrumental, was called Amen Brother and yielded up the Amen break which came to exert such a fascination on a whole host of UK producers. As hardcore sped-up at the end of the eighties a truly exciting, new form of music was birthed.

Jungle melded the visceral thrill of hyper-speed, fractally multiplying beats to often literally monstrous, slow motion dub bass and extended that crucial tension with synth stabs, diva vocals or an MC, and a sheared off sample or two. The hyper/half speed progress of bass and drums and the resulting tensile strength are at the heart of the thrill of Jungle. Symptoms of the infection included heightened pulse, euphoria, high levels of perspiration and a distinct ringing in the ears. In its early years between 1992 and 1994 Jungle explored a plethora of possibilities from the upbeat, saturated hues of Omni Trio and the temporal experimentation of 4 Hero to the exacting science of Photek, the baroque ambition of Goldie and the marshal dystopias of Doc Scott, Subnation et al. In the mid-nineties, Jungle began to sample string sections, tone down the bass, smooth out the rough edges and make references to jazz. Accordingly it acquired a new, more respectable name: drum’n’bass. The seeds of this more sanitary and less viscerally exciting hybrid had already been planted back in 1991 by LTJ Bukem’s Demon’s Theme. The music went overground in the mid nineties led by Goldie and later Roni Size’s Mercury Prize. Partially in reaction to this recognition and in fear of the dissolution of their beloved music, hardcore junglists chose to reject mainstream popularity. As part of their strategy they chose to focus on the dystopian aspects of a cutdown version of the fractal breakbeat in a style known as 2-Step. Under this banner breakbeat shattered into myriad of sub-genres (breakcore, darkcore, hardstep, techstep and so on) which were difficult for any but the cognoscenti to tell apart, which was probably all part of the plan. The music was harsh, minimal and rigid like an MDMA hit that refuses to kick in and instead locks the jaw in a rictal grimace. The discarded upbeat and crowd-pleasing vibe of early Jungle found its home in UK Garage, which mixed slower tempos with added kick and bounce.

Grime. The name’s been bandied around for a while and Rephlex are first past the post with a compilation. The genre’s name is teasingly ambiguous: will Grime follow in the grim footsteps of 2-Step or mix the textural stimulation of smudged glitch with the excitement of early breakbeat?

The answer is that both guesses are mostly wrong. This compilation is first out of the paddock and on a relatively big label (Rephlex) and as a result the one getting the media attention. Whether it’s truly representative of the nascent scene remains to be seen. Grime presents four tracks each by three artists, MarkOne, Plasticman and Slaughter Mob. The music here has some common factors: it’s mid-tempo, looping stuff, about the pace of a large tank making its determined way over rough ground: it’s implacable, but not hyperkinetic like Jungle. Rhythms feel mechanised, methodical and only occasionally hint at the bounce of UK Garage. One or two tracks here verge on the ponderous, such is their deliberate feel. The low end is all present and correct and is the location of much of the action; it’s upfront in the mix and vies with the percussion for attention. A lot of the time it wins out. This bass is synthetic, man-made and stuffed full of polyunsaturates, oxidants and E numbers. Turn it up loud and it fills the ears and feels like a big, inflatable boat something that would keep you afloat in rough seas.

The overall feel of this music is at times reminiscent of Detroit techno but more plasticised, liquid and verging on queasy. It has the pinpoint accuracy of a gunsight on a high-calibre rifle and consequently recalls Photek circa Form & Function. It seems to be more open-minded in sonic terms than 2-Step and its ilk. For example Plasticman’s Camel Ride is defined by a backwards flute-like sound and ethnic percussion, Industrial Graft features the sound of machinery as an integral part of its rhythm, MarkOne’s Raindance utilises African vocals and Slaughter Mob’s Creeky Door takes its title from just such a sample.

This music isn’t entirely unfamiliar: it’s like something recognisable seen through a distorting lense. As a result it’s not jaw dropping like hearing Jungle for the first time on pirate radio in the early nineties and that music still sounds fresh, thrilling, threatening today. The brushed steel and angular typography of this compilation is a much more accurate reflection of the sound of this music than the name it’s been given.

It’s almost a truism that everything happens much more quickly in our networked, media age: two weeks before the release of Grime, The Observer’s Music Monthly supplement publishes a feature article on the budding scene which manages to conflate or maybe confuse grime with hardcore rap, UK Garage and Jungle. It also paints a much grimmer, narrower portrait of the music than the one conveyed by the relative eclecticism of the three artists featured on this compilation. Violence and crime always make a better story though. The music on Grime is reminiscent of transitional tracks like Lenny De Ice’s We Are E: like a baby bird you can see roughly what it’s going to look like, but it can’t fly very well yet and you might be surprised when you see it fully grown. It would have been good to hear more artists to be more confident of getting a truer picture of Grime, but even so this is recommended as an interesting set of music, whether it’s a faithful snapshot or not.

Colin Buttimer



Click on the cover to access the D-Fuse website


D-Fuse D-Tonate_00
D-Fuse / Onedotzero
09 Tracks. 40min00secs 


What It Is? D-Tonate_00 is a DVD containing nine music tracks and a number of accompanying videos. Most of the music tracks have more than one (up to four) alternative visual track that can be accessed via preset routes on the visual interface or via the Angle button on the remote of a DVD player.

The Method? Rough edits of visuals were sent out to musicians who were asked to use them as the basis for producing soundtracks. The visuals were then edited down and reworked.

The Musical? There are ten tracks by a variety of better and lesser-known electronica artists. Ken Ishii’s track as Flare is of customary high standard and shakes the techno template until it rattles and begins to fall apart; Funkstorung’s Syn~Real is detailed, crunchy and enjoyably contemporary sounding; Kid 606’s We Accept is disposable and in your face (not necessarily a bad thing); Burnt Friedman’s track is disappointingly anonymous and ends rather suddenly; Scanner’s Ltd is a cumulative, subtle beast. The artists you may not have heard of Chi 2, Fibla, Braille et al all contribute sophisticated and enjoyable electronica.

The Interactive? The menu interface is an attractive, multi-layered 3-dimensional space, which provides access to a number of options (angles and sub pictures), which initially appear a little intimidating. After a fair amount of experimentation and reference to instructions on the cover the functionality made sense. There are a few frustrations however that appear more the result of design than personal ineptness. When playing videos it seems that most of the basic controls are made deliberately non-functional. As a result it’s not possible to pause, forward or rewind through tracks. Also when tracks are playing it doesn’t appear to be possible to discover what is playing without returning to the menu (this may be a failing of DVD technology itself, although the subtitling functionality might have been used for this purpose).

The Visual? Everything in D-Tonate_00 rises out of or develops within darkness. Most of the visuals are abstract and fast moving and their synchronisation with the music is on the one and therefore effective and engaging. Scanner’s visual tracks 1 and 2 focus upon a pinpoint of pulsating light from which extend lines of variegated, rapidly changing colours. Though non-figurative, possible associations include a searchlight, a club-land laser or the output of some form of radio wave sensor focused upon a transmitter mast. The third video track is rather like a remix and further abstraction of the night drive scene from Koyaanisqaatsi.

The majority of the visuals on this DVD are detailed, fast moving 3D abstractions. They convey a strong sense of the merging of musical and visual datasets into an immersive synergy. The very level of abstraction and the rate of change and sudden shifts in perspective encourage at least partial surrender to a cyberspace similar to that described by William Gibson: torrents and plains of information interacting in 4 dimensions. The result is like spying on the secret life of data as it travels down Internet backbones via routers and hubs.

Of course anything that’s abstract and digital is in danger of being described as ‘eye candy’, surely a pejorative term if ever there was one. If D-Tonate_00 is put on as background ambience then it does assume this quality. On the other hand, if attention is paid to it then parts of it become mesmeric, even hallucinogenic. The visuals for Fibla’s Shibuya (In 3 Parts) merge recognisable elements: an aerial view of what looks like a Tokyo junction full of scurrying pedestrians and racing vehicles – with abstractions like a lovely close-up of what’s probably a neon sign glowing a rich, dark red against the black background. When the visuals become overtly figurative things become less interesting, for example the Koi carp swim just a little too close to the average screensaver illustration for comfort. So too with the high-speed credit card collage for Kid 606, like the music, it’s brash and noisy, but it seems rather out of place next to the rest of what’s on offer.

Conclusion? D-Tonate_00 is an interesting exploration of the possibilities proffered by DVD technology. The interface appeared to be a little unintuitive, although it could be argued that negotiation and assimilation of the options is a part of the experience reflected in the infoverse imagery. The abstraction of most of the visuals neatly sidesteps the often glaringly obvious lack of ideas in more figurative work at the same time as it mirrors the nature of the music it accompanies. Now where to find a data projector and some mirrors for a truly immersive experience?

Colin Buttimer



Click on the cover to access the Leaf Label website


Delivery Room
The Leaf Label 2004
18 Tracks. 70mins28secs

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Diving in the treasure chest that is the Leaf discography is like taking a trip through highly contrasted sonic landscapes. For over nine years now, Tony Morley has crafted one of the most compelling collection of music around. Refusing to conform to any kind of norm, he has released music that he liked, without worrying whether it would fit the electronic mould. With acts as diverse as Murcof, Manitoba, Icarus, Asa-Chang & Junray, Colleen, 310, Gorodisch, Clue To Kalo or A Hawk & A Hacksaw, to name but a few, The Leaf Label has built a solid reputation for quality recordings.
Formed in 1994, as Morley was press officer for 4AD, to release the first EP by former Bark Psychosis front man Graham Sutton’s new project, Boymerang, Leaf was, for its first few years, a rather sporadic label, with only a handful of EPs released. Five years on, Morley released Osmosis, a compilation that summed up the spirit of Leaf and defined once and for all the label’s ethic. As the label prepares to celebrate its tenth birthday next year, Morley brings another selection of classic Leaf moments in the shape of Delivery Room. Containing tracks lifted from recent releases as well as a handful of exclusive recordings, this superb compilation gives an almost complete overview of what Leaf is all about. All the big names of the label are featured here. Opening the festivities is Bill Wells with Pick Up Stick, taken from his recent collaboration with To Rococo Rot’s Stefan Schneider and trombonist Ann Whitehead on the mini album of the same title, followed by Sutekh’s reverential version of Murcof’s Memoria, recently published on the Utopía Remixes twelve inch. Bringing new colours and textures to the original while respecting Murcof’s unique sonic landscape, the West Coast experimentalist also brings some of his own tonalities to the track, enhancing it’s dancefloor potential through developed micro-beats. Elsewhere, a light-hearted Manitoba presents a summery stroll through psychedelic pop with Crayon, and A Hawk & A Hacksaw’s Maremaillette is as festive, with cascades of pianos running over sumptuous melodies, contrasting greatly with more complex and tormented constructions from Icarus (Essen, Gnog), Asa-Chang & Junray (Parlor) or Riow Arai (Eclipse). Calmer moments are to be found with Colleen’s superb Ritournelle, Gorodisch’s Alexthymia or Rob Ellis’s Four Pictures With Debussy and Music For The Home No. 8.
Delivery Room is once again an impeccable inventory of Leaf music. Faithful to the label’s ethic, this compilation is a must for all fans of quality music. Ideal entry point for the novice, it is also an excellent summary of past and present releases from the London-based label for its numerous fans.



Click on the cover to access the Audiobulb Records website


Audiobulb Records 2004
14 Tracks. 72mins35secs

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Contrasting greatly with the diversity of Delivery Room, Audiobulb Records’s Switches compilation presents a surprisingly homogenous collection of experimental compositions from the label’s roster. Although the label is based in the UK, in the heartland of British electronic music that is Sheffield, home of Cabaret Voltaire, Human League, Heaven 17 and later, Warp, the artists gathered by Audiobulb boss David Newman come from all over the world. The idea of setting up a label came up after Newman spent the best part of two years chatting to young musicians about sound design and composition through message boards. Realising the potential left untouched out there, Newman started collecting tracks, originally making them available through MP3 releases, eventually collected at the end of last year on two MP3 compilations, Exhibition #1 & 2, still currently available to download for the Audiobulb website. Switches is the label’s first official CD release.
Opening the procession is Rodolphe Küffer, with Content, a melodic piece supported by glitches and micro beats reminiscent in part of Autechre circa Cichlisuite. As the track slowly progresses and the main melody develops more clearly, the beat pattern becomes more assured and consistent before disintegrating when a treated human voice emerges. Perfect introduction for this record, Content very much highlights the human interaction behind the mechanical sounds on offer throughout this album. Marion’s Singalong Tammy or Claudia’s We Lost Him, But Kept Going work on a similar level, although via different means. If We Lost Him… also features vocal samples interwoven with complex sound structures and found sounds, Marion strongly relies on acoustic instrumentation to support the minimalist setting of Singalong Tammy. More straightforward, Bllix presents with Document.Write a true moment of classic electronica, evocative of Boards Of Canada or Christ. Only artist here to have an album under his belt, Diagram Of Suburban Chaos, aka William Snavely, evolves in similar spheres, with beautifully-laid warm analogue sounds wrapped over gentle glitches and carefully structure beat sequences, while Oti (Large Open Spaces), Autistici (Breath Holding On To A Window) and Effacer (Fire At Sea) create atmospheric landscapes, relying almost solely on scarce melodies and rarefied beats. Elsewhere, Disastrato or Henry Leo Duclos meticulously deconstruct a multitude of found sounds that are then collaged again, altering their relevance through profoundly electro-acoustic cycles.
Promising further compilations as well as individual releases, Audiobulb gives with Switches a promising taster of things to come. Despite the variety of sound and technique on offer, Switches remains sonically very consistent all the way through, and could well be the first of many steps into electronic wonderland.



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