Little White Earbuds » big black headphones http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com Hook up your ears Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:02:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 BBH: Suzanne Ciani, Voices of Packaged Souls http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-suzanne-ciani-voices-of-packaged-souls/ http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-suzanne-ciani-voices-of-packaged-souls/#comments Wed, 20 Jun 2012 05:01:00 +0000 http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/?p=32327 Voices of Packaged Souls.]]>

[Dead-Cert Home Entertainment]


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What’s the point of a reissue label? Some take the route of repressing much loved classics and making them available again, while others might cherry pick from an artist or label’s back catalogue for the sake of putting out compilations. The idea of a reissue label from both the people at Finders Keepers and ultimate diggers Demdike Stare would give any seeker of outsider music a bit of a hard-on, and Dead-Cert Pressings’ inaugural release would seem to justify it. The point of Dead-Cert is to reissue music that truly nobody has heard, and its first release, Suzanne Ciani’s Voices of Packaged Souls, was just that. Originally pressed up in a run of only 50 for an art gallery exhibition in Brussels, it was the musical counterpart of Harold Paris’ “hard-material” sound sculptures. Ciani herself has recently been in the spotlight for early electronic nerds with the Finders Keeper’s Lixiviation compilation, which showcased both her commercial and avant-garde Buchla experiments before she went on to be a Grammy-nominated New Age artist.

Voices of Packaged Souls is even stranger than the Lixiviation material, and highly conceptual: each “voice” is introduced with bilingual narration in English and French, giving it a slightly artsy-fartsy edge (by no means a bad thing). There are 13 voices in total, including an introduction and trippy outro, some being short, creepy oddities while others seem a bit more composed. “Sound of Heat” is the longest thing here, and it suits its title well, with jabbing, rhythmic dings dancing around long-burning noises that at times flare up to scald the listener. The fourth voice, “Sound of Wetness,” is a technoid fever-dream, while the “Sound of an Eye Tearing” contains the eerie moans of an infant (which says a lot about Ciani’s mastery of the Buchla’s voice modulation capabilities). On the flip things get noisier at some points (“Sound of Bones Growing”), but quite tender at others (the dream-like “Sound of a Lighted Window”). Voices of Packaged Souls is a concise listen at only 20 minutes, but a potent one, with an impressive amount of ideas packed into each groove. It serves partially as a history lesson, exposing the sounds of one of electronic music’s most important early machines to a generation with little experience in the field of modular synthesizers. It would be quite a stale listen, however, if it weren’t for Ciani’s innovative approach to music, so with Voices of Packaged Souls Dead-Cert Pressings have unearthed quite the forgotten gem.

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Pye Corner Audio, The Black Mill Tapes Volumes 1 & 2 http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/pye-corner-audio-the-black-mill-tapes-volumes-1-2/ http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/pye-corner-audio-the-black-mill-tapes-volumes-1-2/#comments Wed, 23 May 2012 15:01:17 +0000 http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/?p=31320 The Black Mill Tapes have been pressed to vinyl by Type and tape by Further Records.]]>

[Type]

Sometimes in the course of Internet browsing I will happen upon a project that’s only available digitally and get a little bummed. As a firm devotee of physical formats who loses files all too easily, digital is just too frustratingly intangible for me, and even when it’s my only option I hesitate to click the buy button. One of the most intriguing digital projects I have ever found is Pye Corner Audio. Described on their website to be a transcription service wherein their nameless Head Technician has been transferring quarter-inch tapes since 1970. As luck would have it, soon after discovering this mysterious transcription service and having my interest firmly piqued, Further Records pressed the second volume of Pye Corner Audio’s Black Mill Tapes to cassette (and recently pressed volumes one and three as well). Even better, Type Records has seen fit to press the first two volumes on wax, and it’s a good thing that they did. Although the gimmick might be that these tracks were ripped from tape to digital, they clearly belong on analog formats. This review will focus solely on the Type vinyl version.

From the get-go it’s pretty clear that the Black Mill Tapes are most likely not a compilation of found quarter-inch spools, as the work is far too cohesive to be anything other than the work of one producer. It’s also a high-concept series, as Volume 3 was recently released and there is no indication of how many more volumes are planned. Throughout the series there are numbered “Transmissions,” numbered “Themes,” and numbered “Electronic Rhythms,” as well as a smattering of titled tracks, all which heighten the archival narrative of the records and lend a sense of unity to the whole series. The sounds are more than a little reminiscent of Boards of Canada, as it would be quite easy to mistake plenty of the tracks here for outtakes from avant-garde educational films from the 1970s. But whereas yours truly has never really warmed to Boards of Canada like most others, Pye Corner Audio uses these sounds with a clearer intent and focus.

There’s something vaguely sinister under the surface of the Black Mill Tapes, something that recalls idyllic locations with one too many bearded hippies in lab coats and locked rooms to feel completely at ease. While the record never exactly veers into horror soundtrack pastiche, it certainly sounds as if it could score some particularly unsettling acid trips. “We Have Visitors,” with its Italo-esque 16th-note bass line, retro-futurist keypads, and funky slap bass sure as hell sounds like a forgotten B-side from Goblin’s Deep Red, but it evokes the images of Argento’s films without flat-out aping the sound of that group or Ennio Morricone, as many have done before. “Electronic Rhythm Number Three” is another standout, slogging along with ancient rhythm machines at andante tempos while sounds steadily build atop low-slung bass lines. With a record this chock full of standout cuts it would be missing the point to go into each, but the highlight of both volumes is also the longest thing here: the magnificent “Toward Light.” Haunting, foggy pads mesh with a plodding bass line that, over the course of its eight minutes, gently eases up the scale, threatening total catharsis as it does.

“Toward Light” soon subsides into the same eerie, pseudo-hauntological sounds that are the signature of the Black Mill Tapes, and it’s moments like these that make this collection of recordings such a triumph. Yes, hauntology, retro-futurism, and Radiophonics have been all the rage the past couple of years, but the work of Pye Corner Audio is referencing a somewhat different era (early 70s) and seems to be constructed with a very novel ethos driving it. References to Giorgio Moroder and David Cain would not be misguided, but the Black Mill Tapes seem to digest and synthesize these sonic signatures into something wholly original. It’s some of the most visual music I’ve heard in some time; and while the images my brain produces during the transcription process from sound wave to brain wave might vastly differ from yours, I doubt the scenes will be any less evocative. Earlier this year I listened through both volumes while lying down, and, while drifting in and out of reveries, the music seemed almost perfectly in tune with my hypnagogic state, suggesting that the Black Mill Tapes are designed for just these kinds of lucid dreams. It’s just one of the many reasons why this is one of the most absorbing and unmissable collections you’re likely to stumble upon this year.

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BBH: Dream 2 Science, Dream 2 Science http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-dream-2-science-dream-2-science/ http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-dream-2-science-dream-2-science/#comments Thu, 17 May 2012 15:01:46 +0000 http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/?p=31301

[Rush Hour Recordings]


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We’ve all got want-lists and holy grails, but sometimes the best records find us. This was absolutely the case with Dream 2 Science’s mythic self-titled LP, a six-tracker from 1990 that found its way into my pile a few years back while sifting through classic house at Dope Jams. I’d never heard of Dream 2 Science or Power Move, the label responsible for the release, but somewhere between the exquisitely shitty word processor art and the tantalizing $25 pricetag (more than I typically drop on a 12″, but a paltry sum compared to what you’re likely to find for an original pressing on Discogs these days), I knew I needed to investigate further. And from the moment I dropped the needle on “My Love Turns To Liquid” in the listening booth, I knew I’d stumbled upon something serious.

“Serious” probably isn’t the right word for Dream 2 Science, the brainchild of obscure New York producer Ben Cenac, now lovingly reissued by the ever-on-point team at Rush Hour. “Brainchild” isn’t particularly apt, either: this record seems to have been conceived entirely from the penis, and I say that in the most heartfelt, admiring way possible. Cenac draws from the same sound pallet as his early-90s peers at Nu Groove, letting the rougher sounds of Chicago copulate with the last remaining vestiges of downtown Manhattan’s glory days. But while Cenac’s production holds up quite well against the Burrells’, displaying a knack for the New York sound that makes Dream 2 Science far more than a novelty record, he has an earnestly perverted streak that’s difficult to ignore.

Rather than marginalize it, the aspiring lothario at the heart of this record takes its classic production to new levels of awesome. I say “aspiring” because, as opener “My Love Turns To Liquid” suggests, there’s a lot more posturing at work here than actual procreation. While an anonymous female sings this tale of, erm, moisture, replete with synthesized dripping sounds sure to get milk squirting out your nose once the lyrics contextualize them, its exclamations (“Just touch me gently and my love will show/that I’m yearning to feel you”) evoke the frustrations of a horny (and probably male) loner more than real sexual interaction. “Mystery Of Love,” with warm pads and butt-activating 303, does an even worse job of obscuring its motives: “Time is not on our side, baby,” the track’s protagonist intones, suggesting a frustratedly pervy agenda amidst all the roses and teddy bears. When, at the top of the B-side, he finally seems to get what he’s after over the course of “How Do I Love Thee,” his over-the-top declamations (“In gentle sips, I taste the depth of your sexuality”) don’t feel particularly lived in, with ever-repeated and obviously female panting underwriting its artificialness.

Sure, Dream 2 Science positively fails at sex, but you’ll find yourself pulling for him: no producer this good should go home alone. While the vocal cuts have surely contributed to the aura surrounding this record, its three instrumentals may be its highlights. The eponymous closing track especially, with its melodically adventurous piano work and a stretched-out bass line presaging Acid Test, lends the whole Dream 2 Science project a gravity you may not have expected from the half-hour of boners and bodily fluids that preceded it. So although the competitive record collector in me is a touch deflated at the thought of seeing one of my favorite party tricks unleashed on the wider world (and perhaps because I, of course, only own Dream 2 Science for the in-depth features and hard-hitting interviews), I’m ultimately thrilled that a wider audience will get to experience this classic in full, not just as the requisite track-about-ejaculating caned by those lucky enough to have stumbled across it.

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BBH: Lego Feet, Lego Feet http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-lego-feet-lego-feet/ http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-lego-feet-lego-feet/#comments Fri, 10 Feb 2012 06:01:19 +0000 http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/?p=28416

[Skam]


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Before Autechre were Autechre, they were, for the briefest of moments, Lego Feet. Rob Brown and Sean Booth’s 1991 LP under the moniker came and very quickly went on Manchester’s Skam label, where another purported Autechre offshoot, Gescom, put forth its peculiar discography. In the more than 20 years that have passed since it dropped, it’s developed the kind of mythic aura (and Discogs prices) that such prequels occasionally emanate. Having been far, far too young to experience Lego Feet the first time around (and too poor, or at least not desperately curious enough, to seek out the original vinyl release), I was thrilled to see Skam’s expanded CD reissue in my local record shop this winter. Skam’s website reports that, “due to the amount of death threats, begging letters, and ransom notes,” Lego Feet will once again be available on vinyl soon. And I’m genuinely thrilled to report it offers more than just a curio collection for Autechre completists: while the aforementioned will undoubtedly appreciate a window into Brown and Booth before they’d fully come into their Autechreness, students of dance music in general will enjoy hearing the gamut of 1980s dance music tropes cracking at their foundations.

To speak of Lego Feet as anything but a single work is basically pointless: as on the original, where the usual visual delineations between cuts were absent, the CD contains no individual tracks, just four lengthy CD skip points packed sardine-like with shorter pieces. Start the thing up and you’re quickly caught in a web of punchy 303 lines, turntable cuts, noisy drum machines, and ever-present tape hiss — at its release, a kind of textbook summation of electronic dance music thus far. But Lego Feet’s soundworld hardly sounds like the work of producers content to merely report on a decade of musical trends and technologies. DJs will find no bangers here, just the stuff of bangers past pushed to the limits of genre-recognition. To my ears, Lego Feet is the sound of the 80s beset with scowl and acne, an agitated and deeply angsty iteration of musics embracing their awesomely awkward adolescence. Autechre fans will certainly draw parallels with Incunabula, the duo’s debut-in-earnest, and legions of outspoken Discogs doubters may find it their most easily digestible record save Amber. But the essence of what made Autechre Autechre — that willingness to let the bugs in your code evolve into complex organisms, no matter how sinister their machinations — is only suggested here. If Warp’s massive (and essential) EPS 1991 – 2002 reissue brought that essence into focus like no other single Autechre missive could, then Lego Feet shows where the group began carving out its singular niche — not to mention whence came some of the weirdest electronic excursions of the 1990s.

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BBH: Fresh & Low, Little ‘i’ http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-fresh-low-little-i/ http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-fresh-low-little-i/#comments Wed, 23 Nov 2011 16:01:40 +0000 http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/?p=26759 Little 'i' EP improves the record's availability for fans (original copies are around €53 on Discogs) and make the rest of us aware that it even exists.]]>

[Foul & Sunk]


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My initial thought after listening to Fresh & Low’s Little ‘i’ EP was something along the lines of, “Appealing, but it doesn’t exactly break new ground.” The next day, my visit to Discogs resulted in a strange mix of embarrassment and vindication. I’d never heard of Fresh & Low before. It doesn’t feel nice to be oblivious of a project that’s been running for over a decade and spawned some two dozen records. I also learned that Little ‘i’ first saw daylight in ’97, the charmingly-titled Foul & Sunk having acquired the record for reissue this year. In some small way, my ignorance means this vinyl-only reissue is not in vain. Of course, people no longer sell wax for the money. The objective here is twofold: improve the record’s availability for fans (original copies are around €53 on Discogs) and make the rest of us aware that it even exists.

I don’t feel too guilty. If Fresh & Low — once a trio, now a solo act — were actually that special, I’d probably have heard of them. Listening to Little ‘i’ reinforces this sentiment. The tracks have aged well, but there’s certainly no feeling that I’m being acquainted with lost classics. “New Life” starts off far more concerned with mood than with establishing any particular motif. That’s not a strange aim in itself, but the complex jazz noodling in the last minute makes one wonder why they held off so long. The rest of the track is set around woody percussion and sustained backing chords. Volleys of steely plucks -– almost dub techno in timbre -– shift the intensity up and down at will. “No Going Back” shares the same confident outlook, a big kick and jacking percussion underpinning an ardent vocal sample. This one also has a slightly catchier riff, at least before we reach the second half and the rapturous vocal becomes the focus. The similarities don’t end there, though: there are again jazzy wanderings towards the end.

The other two tracks — “Seven Miles Up” and “Dream” -– are more composed. The first plays out around super-high piano and microscopic chimes, which race up the scale at such speed as to form a single note. This elegance is offset by a single vacillating tone. I use the word “tone” because it’s so overtly electronic, as opposed to the record’s otherwise soft palette. Holding each pitch for two bars or so, this theremin-like sound shifts to its next destination abruptly; an interesting element but one people could easily label as tacky. In “Dream,” a brittle percussive skeleton first upholds bunches of globular synth notes, again jazz-influenced, as is the deep house tradition. It’s like “New Life” in reverse, quickly transitioning into a thumping kick and offering little melodically from then on. Apart from this last track, I’m glad to have been made aware of Little ‘i’. But then again, I’m not entirely bothered it didn’t happen sooner.

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BBH: The Memory Foundation, Greenflash EP http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-the-memory-foundation-greenflash-ep/ http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-the-memory-foundation-greenflash-ep/#comments Wed, 09 Mar 2011 16:01:07 +0000 http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/?p=18746 Greenflash EP offers examples of some of their best work.]]>

[Mosaic]


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It’s hard to truly gauge the impact Michael Peter and Martin Retschitzegger have had on techno. Their Central label was an indispensable fixture of the scene in the mid to late ’90s, which they used to present themselves under a varying array of pseudonyms, such as The Memory Foundation, Ratio, Skinless Brothers, Die Rhythmiker and Hi-Lo. Their steely dub techno was without doubt cut from the same cloth as that of the Chain Reaction/Maurizio camp, but there was always something different about the work of the Viennese duo. They also appeared regularly on Jeremiah’s Grow! label as Glory B or with Christian Mahringer as The Last Disco Superstars and DJ Cartman, where their output was noticeably more house and disco based. Though they chose to mainly release on those two labels, they did occasionally branch out, with their Greenflash EP from 1998 coming out on Steve O’Sullivan’s Mosaic imprint (also producing a couple of stunning 12″s for M-Plant too). Released during their most prolific period, the four track Greenflash EP offers examples of some of their best work, each track a stand out piece of heavy dub techno.

Infused with a swinging, broken drum beat, “Basic Color” sways with intensity, chords clambering over each other to reach some vanishing horizon. The oddly-timed, off beat drums were something of a theme for the duo around this time; it added an easily identifiable signature to their tracks and also provided a fresh outlook on the sometimes rigid 4/4 timing structure. The aptly titled “Low Profile” lives up to its name by keeping its head down and working out a straight forward groove via restraint over all of its parameters. The obligatory chord stabs are largely left unadulterated, with the only space really being projected through the snares. Despite its pared back nature, the relentless, rolling “Low Profile” still shines among the other more obvious tracks. “Valve Version” works a filtered sample over obese, bottom end melodies, slowly adding complimentary, decaying chord stabs to the mix. In order to reduce some of the pressure from the speaker wrecking bass, they lace a light, chiming melody on the high end, which balances out the track with a refined consideration. “Un-Theme” strains with the weight of a chord melody trying to push through heavy layers of compression, always straining against an oppressive force, never quite managing to surface but making plenty of impact from the murky depths. One of the things about The Memory Foundation is that rather than stick to the reverb-heavy dub techno of their Chain Reaction contemporaries, they made everything much tighter, preferring to constrict the spatial movement of their tracks to a confined space, which always added a more intense sense of movement to what they did. Although their 2009 Reptiles in Exile EP on Yore showed they were still packing some heat, it will be hard for the Memory Foundation to live up to their earlier work, the Greenflash EP just being one example of their impressive back catalog.

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BBH: Various Artists, NSC 1-4 http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-various-artists-nsc-1-4/ http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-various-artists-nsc-1-4/#comments Wed, 09 Feb 2011 16:01:32 +0000 http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/?p=18331 NSC 1-4 remains a testament to the relationship between the National Sound Corporation and Detroit techno's luminaries.]]>

[NSC Records]


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NSC 1-4 is the first release in a series released by and dedicated to the National Sound Corporation, a seminal Detroit business which, since its 1989 inception, has cut thousands of records by local artists. On some small level, the compilation seems potentially forgettable, the kind of venture for which producers might phone in performances. More than ten years after its 1998 release, however, it remains a testament to the relationship between NSC and Detroit techno’s luminaries. Anthony “Shake” Shakir, Underground Resistance, and Kevin Saunderson feature here, all turning in productions that fit neatly within their respective catalogs.

Shake’s “NSC Tracker” is a dense, unrelenting web of percussion, stabs, and effects, and one has little choice but to submit and attempt to find some sense in its maze. After a good six minutes of confusion, slow, brooding pads momentarily creep out of the mix, in what has to be one of the sliest uses of pads in any Detroit techno track. The whirlwind drum programming makes total sense after their entry (and subsequent swift departure), suddenly transformed into some kind of future drum circle rite. Shake’s other two entries are comparatively spare. “Foundry” is a fairly true-school minimal techno track. As its title suggests, an industrial influence is at play, largely in the shrill effects that provide its backdrop. “Landing, Surveying,” meanwhile, pits a repetitive but engrossing drum pattern over quietly droning background atmospherics.

“UR-046,” Underground Resistance’s thunderous contribution, was originally meant for their label. It’s delivered with typical UR stealth, a crisp futurist electro track composed for piloting high-speed vehicles. A discombobulated arpeggio (bearing more than a little resemblance to a banjo) figures prominently, occasionally lapsing into spacey, Millsian interludes. Kevin Saunderson’s “Talk to Me” closes things out. Some cursory Internet research confirms that listeners have been lukewarm on this one, and truthfully, it’s easy to see why. Smudgy and spirited, it could be a basement Inner City demo, but it’s Jazezta Thompson’s tone-deaf vocals that really push things over the edge. If you’re a fan of amateurish dance vocals, you might find her contribution endearing (I do). But it’s hard to deny she erases most of the urbanity Saunderson brings to the production, keeping the track firmly in the realm of novelty. As a whole, NSC 1-4 is a varied but bounteous set, and shouldn’t be missed by Detroit enthusiasts.

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BBH: Pile, Perlipop http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-pile-perlipop/ http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-pile-perlipop/#comments Wed, 24 Nov 2010 16:01:23 +0000 http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/?p=16736 Perlipop, which was quite indicative of the time and the ethos of the label.]]>

[Perlon]


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Between the two of them Markus Nikolai and Thomas Franzmann are responsible for a dizzying number of pseudonyms and musical projects. Their most successful of course is their long standing label, Perlon, which has for thirteen years and counting been setting the benchmark for minimal house and techno. As Pile they released several different versions of their Modern album, but only ever released one dedicated twelve, the Perlipop three tracker from 1999 (though they were also individually or partly credited with every Perlon release up until that date, bar one).

The sound of the EP, particularly the title track is very indicative of the time and the ethos of the label. Deeply rooted in house music, Perlon were offering a dry, reductionist theory on the genre while losing none of the feeling or swing. “Perlipop” epitomizes this crossover with a regimented percussion sequence that takes a good four minutes to acquiesce into rounded keys, a looser groove and a throaty husk of vocal. For its frosty beginning, “1 Of Those Days” straps on a warm dub house rhythm, Keith Denis’ rich, spoken timbre about the inclement weather in Seattle adding further heat despite the subject matter. It is the most minimal of the three tracks, using the sparse percussive accents to develop an identifiable groove, eventually adding simple, soft, reverberating pads and muffled, shimmering chimes to round off the track.

The version of “The Spirit” which appears here is remixed by Bernd Maus under his Innervision moniker, though no official release was ever made of the original. If you were lucky enough to attend the Perlon five year anniversary at Panorama Bar in 2002 then you might have been handed one of 500 copies of a 7″ containing the track backed with the equally impossible-to-find Thomas Brinkmann and Markus Nikolai track “Florida.” Though the original crafts a summery, laid back vibe that would have been more at home on the Compost or Sonar Kollektiv label from that time, the Innervision mix is the keeper. Chords as wide and bright as the blue horizon stretch over the slow paced arrangement, utilizing small parts of the original vocal to create a beautiful refrain. True testament to a classic release, this could be released today and hit just as hard.

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BBH: Various Artists, Further Adventures In Techno Soul http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-va-further-adventures-in-techno-soul/ http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-va-further-adventures-in-techno-soul/#comments Wed, 20 Oct 2010 15:01:27 +0000 http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/?p=15641

[Ferox Records]


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Although Russ Gabriel’s Ferox Records label counted the brutal acid of Affie Yusef’s Acid Waves and Christian Vogel’s raw, radium techno debut, the Narco Synthesis EP among its first releases, there were always Gabriel’s own productions to even out the tone of the label. Though he got his start producing breakbeat and hardcore as Sub Oscillator, under his own name his love of Detroit house and techno, jazz, funk, and ambient music became more ingrained in Ferox releases as time went by. The second artist compilation on the label from 1998, five years after its inception, brought all of these influences together and still stands today as a fine calling card for Ferox Records.

Gabriel appears twice on the compilation, first with his remix of Carl Craig’s “At Les,” then with his own track “Finally It’s Time (Part 2).” His treatment of “At Les” is a more subdued and for my money much better take on the track than Christian Smith’s from this year. Tapping in to the jazz roots of the original, Gabriel adds flourishes of Rhodes keys and marimba, giving the track an organic counterpart to the synthesis of the bass line and main melodies. “Finally It’s Time” is a more experimental track, which comes across as too busy and along with Aubrey’s “Blue Lick,” which feels poorly mixed, stand as the weakest points on the compilation. But everything else on here still makes for decent listening some twelve years after it was released.

Norwegian producer Bjørn Torske’s “Don’t Electric Shock Me” is a perfectly executed study in Detroit broken-beat techno, sounding like a follow up to the tracks on Carl Craig’s Crack Down EP as Psyche. The squeaky-pulley noise that creeps into Stasis’ “Express” has the effect of repeatedly pulling you back into the melancholy, spiralling groove he creates. Mark Broom and Dave Hill have produced together for the better part of ten years as Rue East, usually dealing in hard techno, though for this sampler they took an introspective route with the thoughtful “Around The Corner.” Slight orchestral stabs accentuate the circuitous groove that forms the basis of this track, changing very little but remaining engaging for its full length. Max Brennan’s “Sirius At The Pier” closes out the compilation, once again dipping into the jazz and house side of the label, using vintage synths and again all of the familiar tropes of Detroit techno these musicians were all inspired by. Ferox seems to be on hiatus again after briefly reappearing in 2007, though amongst their forty EP releases and eight albums they undoubtedly produced some high quality music.

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BBH: Larry Heard, Missing You http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-larry-heard-missing-you/ http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/review/bbh-larry-heard-missing-you/#comments Wed, 06 Oct 2010 15:01:41 +0000 http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/?p=15454 Mr. Fingers with 1999's just as potent Missing You.]]>

[Alleviated Records]


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After treating us to a re-release of 1987′s Mr. Fingers EP at the beginning of this year, Alleviated Records have again, well, alleviated some strain on your Discogs allowance with a fresh pressing of another essential Larry Heard catalog title. This time it’s 1999′s Missing You, culled from the downtempo house LP Genesis, an album whose gleaming, elegant finish may surprise those mainly acquainted with the coarser analogue sound of Mr. Fingers’ canonical records. Probably for that reason, Genesis and the subsequent Love’s Arrival have rather receded into the background of Heard’s formidable legacy, left (perhaps appropriately) to the loving care of ardent devotees. But Alleviated’s repress might be just the thing to raise the profile of a run of records that stand up plenty straight in the producer’s discography. “Missing You” is particularly special, a record spoken of reverentially or, quite often, as a deeply personal matter.

Recorded around the time Heard moved from Chicago to a more laid-back setup in Memphis, “Missing You” glides on a serene mood and an open-air feel. You’ll hear firm kicks and a steady chain of hi-hats, yet the track moves in relaxed, easy sways. The track’s rippling chord pattern maintains such a placid lull that listeners may even find themselves picturing gently lapping waves and white beaches, but “Missing You” is far too emotionally direct to pass for sultry sonic wallpaper. Instead, the instrumental’s inviting atmosphere serves as a sort of “please have a seat” overture for one of the most penetrating and disarming vocal turns house music has produced. The unrepentant soul delivery comes courtesy of Heard himself, articulating a frustrated longing borne of something more complex than simple physical distance. This isn’t a song of rebukes or pleas, however. Heard airs his unease in the calm, clear-headed resolve of a man decided. The die is cast, the tension of imminent change is pervasive, and even those warm keys seem to feel an unnerving chill. Call “Missing You” a measured, mature break-up track, sure. But consider that Genesis was dedicated to Maurice Watson — the Delirium DJ whose staunch support of tracks like “Can You Feel It” was crucial to the migration of house music to the UK, and who had recently succumbed to suicide — and you begin to sense that “Missing You”‘s emotional well runs a great deal deeper.

Surely recognizing that the track hit on something genuine and poignant, Heard soon revisited the track with the “Jazz Café Mix,” trading turquoise hue and pearl finish for a smokier vibe, and augmenting the soul-baring vocal with a stirring soul-jazz piano performance that shifts between plaintive reserve and emotive tempest. Every bit the equal to Heard’s original version, it is understandably included on the new Alleviated record. But I’m afraid you’ll have to dig a little deeper into pockets and crates to come by Theo Parrish’s take on the material. This appeared in 2000 on an excellent remix package, flanked by Son Dexter’s balmy, guitar-driven “Django Version,” Bernard Badie’s uptempo club mix, and yet another variation from Heard himself (the ghostly “After Dark Remix” this time). Parrish’s haunting “Missing Dub” really steals the show, though. His anxious take rebuilds the track from the ground up, constructing a brooding, claustrophobic set-piece of muffled kick drum palpitations, tinny taps, and eerie whines of B-movie organ. Panting through it all is Heard’s voice, but this time stripped of articulate composure. Listening to Heard chanting the two words “Missing You” like an obsession, we get a chilling look at the troubled mind that must surely have preceded the self-possession Heard commands on the original version — one pursued by distant stares, things unsaid, suspicion, circumspection, and confusion.

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