Tag Archives: ambient techno is the soft dance of the future

Borngräber & Strüver – Urlaub

Kommische? Capiche?

My only complaint about this rather hefty three track EP is that the middle selection – “Berlin Tribal Music” is a seven minute filler piece. It is not unpleasant, but it lacks the relentless thrust which marks the lineage of Urlub. It seems odd to say “Well, twenty-eight minutes is too short, but thirty-five would be just right, so let’s glue on this floaty ethno-dubbish piece that feels completely out of place between two far longer tracks.” It seems unlikely that anyone actually said this out loud, but someone probably should have.

That said, this is a delightful nighttime driving soundtrack. Preferably urban and deserted; failing that, something coastal.

Opener “Riese” is the more upbeat of the two “bangers”; a single staccato melody sandwiched with perfectly smooth minimal tech percussion and surprisingly cheesy-but-effective synth washes.

Closer “Dancing Queen” is either so earnest my jaded brain can’t even begin to process it or so jaded my earnest heart is simply unable to keep up. This twofer seems to have a love of the kind of synthy string sound that would be written off as far too much cheddar in most other contexts, has enough “funk” swing to be just about excusable here.

http://www.myspace.com/borngraeberandstruever

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Laurel Halo – Hour Logic

This is a well-crafted love letter of sorts to the mid-90s. A little Basic Channel, a dash of Global Communications, and a hell of a lot of Higher Intelligence Agency. As such, it carries both the strengths (experiments with sounds and textures, lush for the sake of lushness) and weaknesses (severe repetition) of that moment in musical time.

Some objections: It is a bit baffling; it’s an an odd hill to die on; it often sounds like the weaker and more forgettable moments of the largely forgettable career of HIA* – but she’s enough of a tastemaker to inspire some copycats. Some of these copycats will go in new directions via inspiration rather than settling for echoing the echoes of an echo.

This warms my heart with nostalgia, and perhaps even – dare we say it? – hauntology.

* The fantastic matchups with Biosphere excepted, mind you. He helped transmute their laziness into gold.

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Blacworld – Subduing Demons in Southern Yorkshire

alpha7When it comes down to it, while I can respect the huge influence that Cabaret Voltaire had on the growth of New Wave-y type sounds, the one CV album I still really enjoy listening to is The Conversation. Yup, their ambient techno double album, alternately ignored or hated by fans of their earlier work. While I do like some of their earlier stuff (see below), it’s usually overly long and poorly edited. As a general rule, the vocals are great for the first four minutes and increasingly less-great for the four minutes that follow.

What I like about The Conversation is that it is richly thematic, and the form actually lends itself to being too long and far too stingy with the edit button.

Anyway, things change, stay the same, etc etc and so forth: Continue reading

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The Black Dog – Radio Scarecrow

radioscarecrow

There’s retro and then there’s frozen in time.

There’s a revivalist techno thing going on with labels like Dust Science and Soma, and specifically the resurgence of B12 and these guys.

A bit of history – back in the day, The Black Dog was the two dudes from Plaid (before they were Plaid) and Ken Downie. The two dudes left to go do their Plaid thing and Ken kinda fucked around for a while before hitting a new stride in the mid-00s. Beyond all the reissues there was some new material.

Now, if you did the whole “desert island discs” thing becuase you’re old enough to remember when such a postulation was a fun parlour game for music nerds, I would have put 1995’s Spanners album on that list. Very high on that list, in fact, as it is the essential IDM-sounding release. Warp Records + mid-90s + these guys = classic. It’s held up quite well as one long, flowing piece. Neither techno nor braindance, it can cut a rug but it’s a bit more meaty than beaty. And it just sounds so lush, so…like a hair care commercial talking about the wonders of thick, shiny hair, but with sounds that hit your ears. Continue reading

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Biosphere & Higher Intelligence Agency – Birmingham Frequencies

birminghamHigher Intelligence Agency kinda sucked. That’s being a bit harsh, as they did help shape the concept of “ambient dub” but on the other hand, it’s also an information-free concept.

Silly terms are what they are – silly – but Colourforms is almost ok for what it is, though I’d recommend Global Communication first (and last, really). They had the snap and the style, whereas HIA always had a bit too much cheese. Like Shpongle.

Preemptive disclaimer: I know you did a lot of DMT and Shpongle is very important to you but sometimes the truth hurts. They’re mediocre at best and you damn well know it. Continue reading

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SCSI-9 – Easy As Down

scsi-9-easy-as-downThe slickest night at the cleanest Thai fusion restaurant with the most abstract menus (all the dishes are represented by gradiated circles comprised of gradiated circles) and the most beautiful clientele. The lights are just right (also circles), both too bright and too dark. Hypermediated semi-ethnic food eaten by impossibly tall, semi-ethnic models. Expensive cigarettes and cocaine, minus all the hairy old rich dudes who supply these things in the quest to divest clothing from those very same models.

No lines, no scratches, no imperfections. Nobody dies and nobody grows old. Continue reading

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Biosphere – Microgravity, Patashnik and Substrata

“Satellite…Baby”

“Satellite…Baby”

Unless you’re willing to pay 30 bucks or more, you’re not going to find a physical copy of Microgravity. Since no one buys music anymore, this isn’t really an issue. But read on, and we shall explore why the damn thing is worth $8.91 from the iTunes store or an even ten bucks from bleep.com, to keep it truly, really and really truly real.

These days Biosphere is all about the ambient; an icy ambient that’s filled with coldness and ice cubes and other words that mean “weird and somewhat spooky.” Dude even climbs mountains in his spare time and samples the mountain sounds after he’s done climbing it – the musical equivalent of screwing a supermodel and then tattooing your name on her neck in your own blood.

Drifting beyond the “the arctic sound” of recent albums (though Autour de la Lune is so minimal as to be nearly inaudible) is a past when Geir Jenssen was an ambient techno badass. Seriously! If The Orb were a drug-addled maniac, Biosphere was the methodical cop who would burst into the interview room, kick over a chair and pin Alex Patterson into the corner all in one fell swoop.

Do not fuck with Biosphere.

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