Archive for April, 2008

BOBBY & BLUMM: Everybody Loves… (Morr Music)

Max Schaefer on Apr 30th 2008 09:21 pm

Bobby & Blumm: Everybody Loves…

Everybody Loves…
Morr Music 2008
13Tracks. 43mins00secs

A leader of a pop-camp for teenage girls in Sweden by day, Ellinor Blixt (aka Bobby) teams up with Germany’s F.S. Blumm for Everybody Loves…, a small clutch of tracks recorded some fifty kilometres north of Berlin in a cabin near the edge of a forest.

The album evokes a tapestry of visions: the playful though subdued approach to harmony and layering stirs up warmth and violet sunsets while the echoes of beaten vibraphone and thumb piano nudging up against soft blades of guitar as they linger and roll slowly in a hazy ambience reminds of a Vermont spring. Continue Reading »

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JAMIE LIDELL: Jim (Warp Records)

David Abravanel on Apr 29th 2008 11:12 pm

Jamie Lidell: Jim

WARP 160
Warp Records 2008
10 Tracks. 37mins52secs

The past few years have seen the summer blockbuster season start earlier and earlier. June is no longer the start of summer; as far as movie producers are concerned, mid-April isn’t too early to start rolling out the action-adventures and goofy comedies. If there’s a musical equivalent of this seasonal jumping the gun to be found in the music world, it’s Jamie Lidell’s latest offering, Jim, overflowing with ecstasy and optimism more befitting of a gorgeous summer day than rainy spring.

Jim is an album about rebirth, redefinition, and happier new dawns ahead. On Out Of My System, Lidell visits the doctor, only to be told that, “I am not a machine”. Might this be a sly dismissal of the glitchy processing to be found on his previous material, both as himself and as part of Super_Collider with Christian Vogel? Continue Reading »

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BOX: Studio 1 (Rune Grammofon)

Colin Buttimer on Apr 29th 2008 09:55 pm

Box: Studio 1

Studio 1
Rune Grammofon
06Tracks. 42mins40secs

Beginning with eery sounds that would be noxious fumes if you could smell them, the listener is soon pulverised by the racing beats of Morgan Ã…gren (Mats/Morgan, Zappa’s Universe). Box is a quartet comprising Ã…gren plus guitarist Raoul Björkenheim, Trevor Dunn on bass and StÃ¥le Storløkken on keybaords. Together they surge forward like a barely controlled race horse – step in front of this lot and you’ll be flattened outright. At about the five minute mark, the quartet start to get really hectic, creating a roiling musical melange that the next minute they unexpectedly defuse, returning to spare, haunted ambience. Continue Reading »

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: Ambient Not Not Ambient (Audio Dregs)

David Abravanel on Apr 29th 2008 09:40 pm

Various Artists: Ambient Not Ambient

Ambient Not Not Ambient
Audio Dregs 2008
17 Tracks. 74mins55secs

In The Ambient Century, writer Mark Prendergast finds elements of ambient music in artists and groups as diverse as The Byrds, Madonna, and (unsurprisingly) Brian Eno. While the most common aural association with the term “ambient” involves gentle synthesizers and reverb, the musical concept reaches a far wider scope. Ambient music can be with or without beats, vocals, traditional instruments, tones, or repetitive structure; all it really requires is a depth that can either be ignored or focused upon, without a clear detriment to the listening experience.

The myriad possibilities inherent in ambient music are smattered across the diverse, engaging contributions to Ambient Not Not Ambient. Eschewing the lo-fi glitch-dance sound most often associated with Audio Dregs, this newest offering features contributions from artists within and without its stable. Continue Reading »

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BEATUNDERCONTROL: Cosmic Repackage (Malicious Damage)

themilkman on Apr 29th 2008 12:36 am

Beatundercontrol: Cosmic Repackage

Cosmic Repackage
Malicious Damage 2008
09 Tracks. 49mins56secs

Swedish bassist Ulf Ivarrson has, in the thirty years he has been around, taken a variety of musical paths which have led him from punk to rock, pop, techno and dub. He first appeared on the music scene in 1981, aged just fifteen, with Swedish outfit The Quiet, where he met drummer Christer Björklund, with whom he has since played very regularly. After leaving the band in 1983, he went on to play with a variety of formations, including rock band Sky High, in 1991, and Swedish world music group Hedningarna, in 1996, before setting up his own project, Beatundercontrol, with which he went on to experiment with electronic instrumental music, combining it with elements of dub, jazz and ethnic music. Ivarrson released his first album as Beatundercontrol, The Introduction, in 2003.

While Ivarrson hasn’t remained inactive since, it is only now, five years on from his first output, that he returns, this time on British imprint Malicious Damage, with Cosmic Repackage. Continue Reading »

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FOUR TET: Ringer (Domino Recording Co.)

themilkman on Apr 29th 2008 12:30 am

Four Tet: Ringer

Domino Recording Co. 2008
04 Tracks. 31mins33secs
Format: CDS/12″/Digital

It has been a while, over two years in fact, since Kieran Hebden last paraded as Four Tet. During this time, his focus has been on his collaboration with jazz drummer and percussionist Steve Reid, with various degrees of success. Since 2005, the pair have relentlessly toured and released three records, two if the Exchange Session diptych is to be counted as one offering.

One of the pioneers of the ill-named folktronica movement, a tag he has constantly rejected ever since it was stamped all over his work, Hebden abandons here, perhaps not permanently, the future will tell, the voluptuous formations that have made him a near-household name and turns his attention to much more purely electronic soundscapes. Continue Reading »

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JASMINA MASCHINA: The Demolition Series (Staubgold)

Max Schaefer on Apr 28th 2008 11:08 pm

Jasmina Maschina: The Demolition Series

The Demolition Series
Staubgold 2008
09Tracks. 41mins24secs

In her involvement with experimental electronica duo Minit, Jasmina Maschina manipulates a minuscule bundle of patterns that wrinkle and pucker. Something of a surprising shift, then, is her first solo effort, The Demolition Series, a bald folk album where she nags away at melodic fragments while her parched vocal delivery emits opaque but expressive pearls. Continue Reading »

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VARIOUS ARTISTS You Don’t Know: Ninja Cuts (Ninja Tune)

Colin Buttimer on Apr 28th 2008 09:47 pm

V/A: You Don’t Know: Ninja Cuts

You Don’t Know: Ninja Cuts
Ninja Tune 2008
50 Tracks. 224mins35secs

Ninja Tune have been going for an awful long time. Eighteen years in fact. Back at the outset, deep in the mists of time, when we were quite a bit younger than we are now (if we existed at all, that is), the Ninja crew were a bunch of cool fuckers. They rode in on the backs of the likes of DJ Food, Coldcut, Hex and co. Soon after the founding fathers came a second wave consisting of 9 Lazy 9, Funki Porcini, DJ Vadim and The Herbaliser. The early compilations – Funkjazztical Tricknology, Tone Tales From Tomorrow – were a lot of fun and contributed to a playful rebalancing of the rather-too-serious for its own good self-definition of trip-hop by Bristolian headliners (you know who I mean).

Later in the nineties and early noughties, fascinating leftfield luminaries such as Burnt Friedman, Chris Bowden, Roots Manuva and Jaga Jazzist hopped on the bus. But somewhere along the way the main stable seemed to get a bit hackneyed, those waggish ‘you are listening to a stereo recording’-type samples began to bring listeners out in hives and the Ninja Tune share price plummeted. Continue Reading »

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THE CINEMATIC ORCHESTRA: Live At The Royal Albert Hall (Ninja Tune)

David Abravanel on Apr 27th 2008 11:51 pm

The Cinematic Orchestra: Live At The Royal Albert Hall

Live At The Royal Albert Hall
Ninja Tune 2008
09 Tracks. 67mins38secs

Jason Swinscoe has had an interesting time deciding where to steer The Cinematic Orchestra. On its first release, Motion, the Orchestra was a sample-heavy nu-jazz project, exploring and crossing the lines between jazz and hip hop’s more abstract forms. Two years later, the Orchestra switched gears to perform a tight, manic score for Dziga Vertov’s classic, Soviet-era, silent film, Man With A Movie Camera. Following this was Every Day, the most fully realized Cinematic Orchestra album, moving further toward the abstract hip hop side of the equation it introduced with Motion, and progressing toward a looser and more exhausted sound. Most recently, Swinscoe and co. retreated with Ma Fleur, a delicately revitalizing soundtrack to an imaginary movie.

It’s easy to digest The Cinematic Orchestra’s albums as individual units, but thematically, one wouldn’t expect songs from different periods of its history to sit side-by-side too well. Remarkably, on Live At The Royal Albert Hall, Swinscoe has put together a show that flows flawlessly as a cohesive whole, and, like the best live (re)arrangements, forces the listener to reconsider his/her relationship with these songs. Augmented by a live orchestra, Live recasts the Orchestra’s pieces in a light that lends itself to improvisation and more present crescendos; an unexpected but very welcome change of pace.

Opener All That You Give, the Orchestra’s signature song, sounds immediately different. The majestic-yet-claustrophobic instrumentation of the studio version, is replaced by a fuller sounding orchestra, and features a new, screaming saxophone solo. As a replacement for the legendary Fontella Bass, Heidi Vogel has some big shoes to fill, but her vibrato-laden wail works sublimely to deliver a line like “Can you hear me raving? Do you see me crying?” Flite, the only other song on Live lifted from Every Day, is rescued from its overly rigid studio version to become a lively, mysterious explosion of music. It’s impressive to hear a live drummer keep up with the jungle programming of the original, while the addition of what sounds like a noisy electric guitar, and orchestral strings, makes the piece sound like the spy-movie anthem it was apparently meant to be. Never before has the “Cinematic” in the Orchestra’s name been so appropriate.

Ma Fleur thrived on sparseness, empty spaces, and reserved vocals, so it is interesting to hear how its pieces (which make up six of the nine selections here) translate to such a multifaceted live setting. Familiar Ground swirls into being, with audience excitement and applause heating up as the song’s swinging, two-note intro marches forth. The orchestration is more front-and-center here than on the album, while Vogel (again filling in for Bass) perfectly nails the trembling soul that this vocal performance demands. Breathe, meanwhile, betrays the more subdued tone of the original for a bursting, climactic crescendo. The impact of the studio version is changed, but not at all diminished.

Ode To The Big Sea, the only track representing Motion, undergoes the most radical translation here. At almost three times the length of the album version, the live Sea takes the phrases of the original for a five-minute spin, before breaking down into a series of unbacked solos – drums, then horns, then some time for the DJ to shine – before returning for a few more laps around the main theme. It’s the closest to pure avant garde jazz the Cinematic Orchestra has come, yet it wears its distinctive hip hop flavor proudly on its sleeve. After this, Time And Space falls back a bit, as Ma Fleur’s most impressive song takes its place as an emotional grand finale. Featuring Lamb’s Louise Rhodes on a spot-on vocal delivery (of which this album has no shortage), the lush orchestration brings the depth of the original into another dimension. Time And Space runs through one final, and brief, climax, before fading away.

The feeling one gets upon completion of listening to Live At The Royal Albert Hall is similar to finishing a particularly affecting novel – emotionally drained, with a lot to think about, and somehow, all the better for it. In an era where bootlegging and file-sharing have made the standard-issue live album obsolete, Live draws from existing Cinematic Orchestra material to paint a new picture, one well worth seeking out.


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PORTISHEAD: Third (Island Records)

themilkman on Apr 25th 2008 12:47 am

Portishead: Third

Island Records 2008
11 Tracks. 50mins06secs

In the mid nineties, Britain was still struggling to deal with a recent past which had left some pretty deep social scares. The strikes, high unemployment and economic meltdown of the early eighties had been topped up with the hangover that followed the mighty party of the late eighties and early nighties, and it would be a while yet for things to ‘get better’. The depression that followed and the state of mind of the nation at that particular point was documented by a bunch of misfits from Bristol. Alongside Massive Attack and Tricky, Portishead, a trio hailing from the grim seaside town of the same name, a few miles outside Bristol, were establishing the foundations of a sound that would mark a generation.

While Massive Attack and Tricky relied heavily on soul and hip-hop, Portishead projected a much more cinematic sound, infused with sixties and seventies soundtrack music, heavily processed to take away their natural sheen and rendered instead in charcoal overtones and gritty textures, a process that marked the band’s debut, Dummy, and even more so their eponymous follow up, released almost four years later. Continue Reading »

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ESSIE JAIN: We Made This Ourselves (The Leaf Label)

themilkman on Apr 24th 2008 12:38 am

Essie Jain: We Made This Ourselves

We Made This Ourselves
The Leaf Label 2008
10 Tracks. 41mins03secs

While Essie Jain was born and raised in London, it is from New York, where she moved in 2001, that she operates. Music has been a part of her life from a very early age, learning classical piano, cello and, later, opera, but rejected it all at the end of her adolescence. It is only some years later, as she was going through a difficult time in her life, that she turned to music once again as a mean to express her emotions. After moving to New York, she spent some time collaborating with various musicians before meeting guitarist Patrick Glynn with whom she began working on her debut album. The result, We Made This Ourselves, was originally released on Brooklyn-based Ba Da Ding over a year ago, and is now given a new lease of life thanks to Leaf, just as her second album is due out in the US.

Although the folk brushes have brought comparisons to anything from Vashti Bunyan to Nick Drake, there is, throughout We Made This Ourselves, a strong reminiscence of This Mortal Coil’s third album, Blood, especially in the way melodies erupt in vocal harmonies. Continue Reading »

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Robert Rowlands on Apr 22nd 2008 10:23 pm

INTERVIEW: Matthew Dear

In the space of just a few years, Matthew Dear has established himself as one of America’s most consistent electronic musicians around. A true all-rounder, seemingly as much at ease with techno, minimal house and techno pop, Dear follows his instinct instead of trends. His most recent album, Asa Breed, has catapulted him into electronic music’s premier league. Here, he talks to Robert Rowlands about being influenced by European techno, touring with Hot Chip, how his music is a reflection of his life and what matters to him when listening to other people’s music.

Continue Reading »

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