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L'ALTRA, "MUSIC OF A SINKING OCCASION"

The follow-up toL'altra's 1999 self-titled EP comes on strong with sweet and somberpop, chilling with an intensity that well exceeds its slow and simplearrangements. Whether or not you're looking for music to languish to,Music of a Sinking Occasion is itself good enough reason to let thestereo blare while you lie in bed all day. Opening track "Music of aSinking Occasion" is hardly ideal cocooning music, but once you getpast its jazz jangle, there's nearly an hour of solid tunes that aresimply to sigh for. "Little Chair" layers mellow strings and guitarover rolling bass and drums that evoke a duskier Sea & Cake. Shortand glowing "Slow as Cake" and "Handwashing for Good Health" featurelayers of keyboardist Lindsay Anderson's vocals, which on most tracksintertwine with those of guitarist Joseph Costra. Towards the middle ofthe album, "Lips Move On Top of Quiet" starts as a quiet sway thatswells into an icy swirl of piano and strings. Each song evokes adistinct shade of introspective longing that blends into the next for awhole set of uninterrupted atmosphere. The album also features RobMazurek (Isotope 217, Chicago Underground Trio) on trumpet and FredLonberg-Holm (Flying Luttenbachers, Pillow) on cello. L'altra'sEuropean tour, kicking off in April in Brussels with Tortoise and theSea & Cake, will finish up with a single stop in the States atChicago's Schubas, May 11th. In the meantime, it's hard not to resistlearning all of Music by heart, with plenty of blankets nearby. - Diane Lewis

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4368 Hits

SILO, "ALLOY"

The first surprise comesbefore you've even played the second Silo album - Swim have launchedtheir first illuminated 'digipack'. I have well over half the CD'sColin Newman and Malka Spigel have released on their label since theyrealised back in the early 90's that they could do a better job ofgetting Malka's 'Rosh Ballata' album to the ears of those who wanted tolisten than anyone else, and this is the first 'digipack' I've seen. Imuch prefer them to brittle 'jewel cases' and the cover photo of rowsof glowing light bulbs resting on green grass is well served bycardboard.
The second surprise is the cover. Although it looks like a JonWozencroft design, the light bulbs were captured by the lens of MikkelTjellesen and layout is credited to Christine Cato. It looksquintessentially Swim though; at first glance I thought the lights weresunkenly illuminating a sea bed.
The image is so perfectly matched to these three Danes' slowlyunfurling beatscapes that one hardly needs the clue of the title - analloy being a mix of metals to create a new, more useful or resilientmetal. The musical adventures of Soren Dahlgaard, Frederik Ammitzbolland Mikel Bender are all mixed up into something which doesn't soundquite like anything else. The closest comparison I could field would beGerman avant-pop synth trio Kreidler, but Silo employ heavier beatswhich seem to slide almost imperceptibly across diagonally rather thanforward. Much has been said about the absence of 4/4 beats in this'Alloy'.
Once the CD was in the CD player, the first track wasn't such asurprise. 'Bulk' had already appeared as work in progress closing the'Swim Team 1' sampler and suggested that Silo might be pursuing theextended hypnotic elements of their debut 'In Star'. They've polishedup the 'Bulk' with some melodic additions, but maybe because the titleseems to suggest it, it seems to have the feel of a large ship cuttingslowly through calm waters. And the hypnotic elements are certainly onboard from fore to aft. There's an all-time great segue into the faster'Prime Movers'. A lot of thought appears to have gone into the tracksequence, so that the album flows in an addictive mesmeric stream ofoff-beats and techno informed slow rock. It's 'real head nod shit'according to Colin Newman. I couldn't guarantee any lasting laxativeeffect, but it may well move you!
The nine tracks often give the impression that they've been worked onconcurrently and elements from one seem to reappear as echoes inanother. Vocals are sparing and atmospheric and the only one wordsticks in my mind after repeated spins but is a lyric which seems oddlyapt and descriptive: 'Structure'.
The last couple of tracks break away from the rest of the albumsomewhat but still sound of a piece. 'Those adopted by people' is thefastest and probably most danceable track, sounding almost likeImmersion. 'Repose' closes 'Alloy' with a deep bass drone and revolvinghigher pitched (guitar?) sample, and proves that Silo don't need a beatto hypnotise. It'd be nice if its four minute lifespan was increasedthreefold.
Silo have surpassed themselves with an essentially unique beat-drivenmix that sounds at once organic and machine chrome tough. - Graeme Rowland

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6245 Hits

AUTECHRE, "PEEL SESSION 2"

Ae trainspotters aroundthe world are aware that it's been some time since new material hassurfaced from Sean Booth and Rob Brown. In mid-1999 they released thedifficult, confusing "EP7," which left quite a few people nonplused,others either irritated or delighted. Consequently, rabid Autechre fans(such as myself) are very curious about this new release: a second setof Peel Sessions to complement the first set recorded in 1995.
Describing the way Autechre sounds hasn't been easy since theirmind-blowing 1995 release, "Tri Repetae." As far as anyone can figure,the closest Autechre get to occupying a genre is probably electro ordetroit techno. But Autechre have a seemingly bottomless bag of trickswhen it comes to sonic manipulation: blender-style waves of distortion,sliced-and-diced vocal gibberish, bursts of deafening static, too-fastspidery percussion, low-pitched hums and thumps — and occasionaldelicate, lucid-dreaming melodies made from synths or strings.
There's one of these right at the start of the 9-minute "Gelk," thefirst of four tracks on "Peel Sessions 2." Accompanied by a tentativetapping, it grips you by the hair and pulls you all the way down thescale into a pair of earth-shaking bass tones, then repeats itself, andafter a few seconds of this everything starts echoing in the mostinteresting way. It's classic Autechre, straight off of "ChiasticSlide" or "LP5" — but then, three minutes in, the song shifts without ahitch into what sounds like a lunatic plucking at a detuned grandpiano, those thick hums stuttering and twisting as the pace slows, doesa pirouette, and turns itself into a blunted breakbeat. At the sevenminute mark, the beat disappears, gongs ringing as a totally differentmelody is eked from the high strings.
Irritatingly, this masterpiece is followed up by "Bifil," a juddering,thumping juggernaut of a song improved only by the eventual inclusionof an alien whimpering and babbling behind all the noise. Hit fastforward and save yourself the mental effort of trying to make sense ofit. Next comes "Gaekwad," which demonstrates Autechre's unique abilityto fashion a groove out of the sound of a bag of marbles dumped outonto a glass tabletop. Synthetic chimes and bells ring in thebackground while the beats skitter all over the place, speeding up andslowing down, growing louder and softer at random. The track gets acreepy edge as warped samples of dogs barking and laughter filter intowards the end. Lastly there's "19 Headaches," another bit ofunfathomable, or perhaps improvisational ("Quick! We need another trackto round out the set!") Autechre jitteriness. Lots of finger-walking upand down keyboards and weird, shuffling percussion, completely bizarreand almost unlistenable.
For folks who already like the duo, this bargain-priced EP is worth itjust for "Gelk" — fanatics on the other hand would probably somethingmore from the other tracks as well. Those new to Autechre, "LP5" andthe insane masterpiece that is "Tri Repetae" are waiting for you — buyone of them instead and save yourself the trouble of sitting throughthe filler.

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4693 Hits

CROOKED FINGERS, "BRING ON THE SNAKES"

Perhaps inspired bySpringsteen's "Nebraska," "Bring On The Snakes" finds Crooked Fingers(Eric Bachmann of Archers Of Loaf fame, who recorded a track for SubPop's "Nebraska" tribute "Badlands") recording a largely scaled downaffair. Quite a contrast from last year's self-titled debut, thisrelease features Bachmann on acoustic guitar and vocals on all tracks,accompanied by various atmospheric sounds and noises. This may causesome to call the release bland, or comment that all of its songs "soundthe same." If the same was said of "Nebraska" upon its release 20 yearsago, few say it now. The songs are more mature while sparse, and thelyrics complement Bachmann's half-Springsteen/half-Tom Waits growl. Thealbum reaches its apex on "Doctors Of Deliverance," where a poundingHouse-like electronic beat drives the track as Bachmann sings of losthopes and dreams and cheated/defeated love. Crooked Fingers may havechanged from the last release, but the song remains somewhat the same.Thank goodness. Bachmann is proving to be one of the great bards of ourtime, deserving of your ear. Listen: you won't be disappointed.

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4166 Hits

RAPOON "COLD WAR : DRUM 'N' BASS :"

Robin Storey, a foundingand former member of Zoviet France, has endeavored for nearly a decadeas Rapoon. With "Cold War" he explores new means of expression whilereflecting upon the burgeoning war induced technology in the otherwise'beautifully stark' British countryside of his youth. The drum n bassportion of the title is somewhat misleading ... Storey has indeedembraced and implemented drums and bass as rhythmic elements but only afew tracks are as frantic as the d 'n b of, say, Squarepusher, Plug orold Photek. And judging from the few other Rapoon CDs (of which thereare dozens) I currently own, this is still very much signature Rapoon.21 tracks ranging from less than 1 to nearly 12 minutes are spread over2 discs. A thick and entrancing mix of ethereal/ghostly atmospheres,voices, samples and brief radio transmissions are melded well with thedrum loops. In most tracks the ambiance enshrouds the rhythm (ordispatches of it completely - always a plus for Rapoon) while in someothers the opposite is true. The results are positive save for 2particular tracks that sound too 'canned' and/or tedious for my liking.A copy of Sonic Foundry's ACID 2.0 for Windoze comes on disc 2 so youcan remix to your heart's delight. The next slated release from Rapoonis a re-issue of the 1997 album "Messianic Ghosts" on KlanggalerieRecords.

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5464 Hits

JACK DANGERS, "¬°HELLO FRIENDS!"

Typically, a 'DJ Mix'record will be a selection of other people's cuts strung together byone semi-popular artist in a continuous mix, sometimes the DJ will beusing their own remixes to somehow give the impression that their nameon the record makes it rather personal, in this case however, JackDangers has spun together a multitude of material that has beenswimming around on Tino Corp releases, all of which include productionin various capacities by Jack Dangers. Old collectors and new fanswould each find great things in this collection. Clocking in at over 61minutes, this collection pulls together not only some exclusive Tinobreaks, Meat Beat Manifesto songs, Loop Finder General tracks, remixesand other appearances, but the exclusive video "Tino's Factory"directed by Ben Stokes (DHS) adds the finishing touch. Also unlike tonsof other DJ mixes, many songs are included in somewhat close to theircomplete form with a refreshing varied tempo. For those who own theTino vinyl, this makes a perfect compact collection for bringing aroundon the walkman or for long drives. Others who have not yet heard theTino Corp records, a disc like this provides a great introduction tothe breakbeat experiments, collecting great dub, latin and tropicalbreaks along that have a flavor distinctly Jack Dangers.

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4617 Hits

PANOPOLY ACADEMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, "CONCENTUS"

Fans of Pere Ubu willdefinitely want to check out the latest from Panopoly Academy ofEngineers. Complete with David Thomas-esque shrieks and squeaks,Panopoly Academy's third full-length release paints (or splatters) anoff-kilter post-punk soundscape. Pounding basslines and grindingguitars divert into watery, wandering interludes before lurching backinto jittery assault. The album's nine songs are grouped into threes,each its own suite, so that one track and the next often collide.However, each song definitely has an unpredictable arc of its own. "TskTsk" begins with a ticking twisting together of drums (Ryan Hicks),chewy bass (Pete Schreiner), and guitars (Marty Sprowles) that unravelsas soon as Darin Glenn's vocals intervene, "Your culture co-opt,contain." After only a brief return to the tension of its openingstrains, the track explodes into a funky twitch that subsides intosilence before winding up for a final handful of crashing chords and anunsettling chorus of chirpy, layered vocals. The entire album is densewith twists, jerks, and unexpected directions, every musical spasmproducing its own bizarre pleasure. Mm, battering rhythms...bleatingguitars... Depending on your usual musical inclinations, this sort ofthing can also be exhausting. While it's possible that such jaggedterrain could use some more developed passages, it's more likely theband's frenetic style just takes a little getting used to. Check itout. Previous Panopoly Academy releases can also be found underPanopoly Academy Glee Club, and an upcoming album will sport the namePanopoly Academy Legionnaires. Schizophrenia by any other name.

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3977 Hits

MARK KOZELEK, "WHAT'S NEXT TO THE MOON"

Following the AC/DC kickstarted with his EP, "Rock 'n Roll Singer," Red House Painters' frontman, Mark Kozelek has completely re-rearranged an entire album's worthof tracks for solo voice and acoustic guitar. Once again his choice ofAC/DC cuts come from the old Bon Scott-era, including reinterpretationsof tracks that appeared on last year's EP. The tracks are original inthe sense that any fan of Kozelek's knows he has a knack of completelyrewriting the music while keeping the lyrics intact, a trend going wayback to Red House Painters' eponymous third album from '93. While thisalbum is a homage, and shows a side of him even softer and moresensitive than the frequent distortion-filled guitar solo-stretchedlabel-dropping songs from RHP, I'm really aching for a new trick. Tohis credit, he has essentially made these songs his, as the convictionis resounding true from his voice. His talents as an acoustic guitaristand arranger are shining bright, as these hard-edge rock and rollclassics have almost become endearing love songs. One of my complaintsis that these ten songs, which total exactly 30 minute, could haveeasily been released on the same disc as last year's EP. Other thanthat, longtime fans shouldn't feel let down, 'Old Ramon' is scheduledsometime very shortly.

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4975 Hits

Ladytron, "604"

LADYTRON, "604"
While browsing the website of a local record store, I happened to come across a soundfile clip of Ladytron's song "Discotraxx." This 90 second fragment was so impressive that I didn't hesitate to run out and pick up the Liverpool quartet's debut full-length, '604'. Slick, sexy, and well-produced tracks chock-full of synths and drum machines dominate the album, replete with absurdly contagious hooks. '604' opens with the erotic dissonance of sleazy instrumental "Mu-tron" and subsequently provides club anthems for the ebony-haired, black-clad sombre youths straight out of the Saturday Night Live skit "Sprockets." The vocals lend a dark side to the unadulterated electronic bliss: the icy, detatched lyrics, Ladytron's tongue-in-cheek salute to 80s materialism, are sung by the two female members of the group; one with a sugary-sweet voice which serves as an excellent contrast to the lyrics, and the other with a heavy Bulgarian accent contributing to the album's pervasive mock-Eurotrash aesthetic. '604' runs the gamut from Morodor-esque disco in tracks such as the brilliant "Playgirl" to the stripped-down pop sensibilities of Kraftwerk (Ladytron's "He Took Her To a Movie" bears a suspicious resemblance to "The Model"), yet manages add more unusual elements like bongos and a squeaky violin sporadically on various tracks. Despite all its marvelous melodies and decadent basslines, the one small disappointment of '604' is its anti-climactic finish: the two weakest and least interesting tracks on the album are the ones to close it out. Nevertheless, after it's all said and done, Ladytron does not fail to deliver a quite delicious release that hasn't left my CD player since I bought it.

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7006 Hits

Labradford, "fixed::context"

Similar to the Tortoise and New Year albums, the newest Labradford audio document also heads down the path of re-examining older concepts through current methodology. (And like the New Year, this was also recorded with assistance from Steve Albini in July of 2000 in Chicago.) The trio return to a certain purity of earlier albums with the absence of additional players which colored the last few. 'Fixed::Content' could be the most personal recording a group like Labradford can get while remaining completely instrumental. The album is an exercise in patience, symmetry and impressionistically represents the group as the trio they are.

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7174 Hits

Francisco Lopez, "Untitled #104"

Premiered first at Sonar 2000, this release could very well be an impressionistic aural painting of a thunderstorm which gets closer and closer, unleashes its wrath and then breaks.

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4496 Hits

Lemon Jelly, "Lemon.KY"

LEMON JELLY, "LEMON.KY"
What else would you expect from a group called Lemon Jelly - in a few words: it's mellow, kinda fruity, bright and tasty. The CD on the chopping block is a collection of tunes from three previously released 10" singles from a duo who consists of Fred Deaklin and Nick Franlen (both graphic designers by trade). Fred's got some credit to his name as a unique DJ, as his 'Wheel of Destiny' club nights are set up to decide the musical style every 30 minutes with a spin of the wheel! Nick on the other hand has provided keyboards and drum programming for the Spice Girls and All Saints as well as Primal Scream's recent 'Xtrmntr' and a future slab from overrated Britpop wankers, Pulp. People have tagged Lemon Jelly as bringing renewed interest to "nu-lounge" sound. It's got a fondness of dub and an eye on cheery electronic interplay, not entirely unlike Kruder & Dorfmeister and associated side projects or Arling & Cameron. Yeah, these groups always come in the form of duos! Guitar samples, horn stems, organ-imitating keyboards, and rhythmic percussives are all elemental to each song which could easily provide a backdrop to doing your taxes on a Sunday afternoon.

4319 Hits

Thighpaulsandra, "I, Thighpaulsandra"

The man known as Thighpaulsandra could very well be the definition of a modern musical mad scientist—pure genius with a maniacal manifestation of sound. His debut Eskaton full-length release (don't get all semantic on me, this isn't his first full-length nor first Eskaton release) comes as a double CD of all new material featuring contributions from members of Coil, Spiritualized and Julian Cope's band as well as his mum.

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6667 Hits

Repeat, "Select Dialect"

REPEAT, "SELECT DIALECT"
With a name as innocuous as Repeat and a cover as stunningly ugly as the one for "Select Dialect", it's no wonder that I discovered this recording in the "To Be Listened To Sometime Later, Maybe, If At All, Or Perhaps I'll Just Use These as Beer Coasters" pile of CDs at the home of this e-zine's esteemed editor. The cover looks awful. It looks like it was designed with random scraps of construction paper. It's difficult to tell what the band name is and what the album's title is, because of the awkward placement of words on square, green splotches unevenly distributed across a baby-blue (ugh!) scrap of cardboard. If I didn't happen to be turning over and examining every single CD on said editor's table one evening, this fine recording would have gone entirely unnoticed by either of us.
Repeat is the duo of Swiss percussionist Jason Kahn and Toshimaru Nakamura, who plays an empty mixing board feeding back into itself and wired out to a sampler. He tweaks the high-pitched feedback, and samples it in real-time. You may remember Nakamura from last year's fantastic "Four Focuses" CD, in which he performed duos with Sachiko M, Otomo Yoshihide, and the great Martin Tetreault. Both Nakamura and Kahn have been active in the international improvised music community for at least a decade, and Repeat may be their attempt to expand their audience beyond the already initiated.
What is most unexpected is how close this duo resembles the post-techno sound being set forth by labels such as Raster-Music and Karaoke Kalk. Nakamura's mixing desk shimmers with pleasant tones (yes, actual tones!), as well as the expected high-pitched squiggles. Kahn's metallic scraping and occasional synthesizer repeat simple melodic phrases, and his more traditional percussion even keeps a steady beat. In the album's closing track, Kahn's lightly stuck bowls ring and combine with a flute-like sound (the origin of which I will not attempt to locate), for an effect not dissimilar to polite New Age. From two musicians who have existed for years at the outside of the improvised music community, it is certainly novel to hear these song-like forms emerge. There are edgy moments, but not many, so if this is some listener's way into the potentially alienating world of electro-acoustic improvised music, then that's just fine with me. As it is, it's pleasant enough, and if I didn't know who these folks were, I wouldn't think twice about how oddly normal it was.

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4503 Hits

Shizuo, "More Morphine"

SHIZUO, "MORE MORPHINE"
Former Atari Teenage Riot sound engineer and current DHR artist David Hammer (a.k.a. Shizuo) presents his first release on his own label. All 4 songs have much more color than DHR stuff usually does, (with the exception of Lolita Storm, who I still love). "More Morphine" was written with DJ Scud (Londoner who runs Ambush Records and in collaborotation with NYC's I-Sound, Full Watts). It is filled with vocals and is like a male Lolita Storm. "Nuerology" is like DMZ, The Twinkeyz, or Lou Reed filtered through The Cramps and then some. "16 Licks" goes extreme at the end of each bar. It starts with the guitar lick from "Keep Me Hanging On". It goes on to sample vocals from Crass and David Bowie. "Dealing Drugs" has spoken samples that provide the feel for the song. It is sparse in spots and has the noise wash in others. It ends with a looped vocal that has to be manually lifted from the turntable (locked groove). This single is actually pretty good if you like life hard.

5067 Hits

"Paris Vu Par"

"PARIS VU PAR"
A compilation from Cherry Orchard's record label in France. Like Bambini's 'Mystery Date Game' and 'Voyage Romanesque' and Invicta Hi-Fi's 'Special Skool' comps this record attempts to create the cool atmosphere that Siesta and El Records have done on their international pop compilations, with just a dash of the electronic pop that J-pop specializes in so well. Every band wrote a song about Paris just for this compilation. For me the 2 standout tracks are the Baxendale cut "The New Parisienne Pop And Soul" and The Cherry Orchard's "We Could Fall In Love". These 2 tracks are classics of each of the bands that are exclusive to this disc. Baxendale remain one of my very fave bands of 2000. Le Hammond Inferno sound very J-pop on the instrumental "Stylostumpt". The track sounds very familiar though I can't place from where. It is very energetic and catchy. Merrick's (from Munich) do a pretty good song "Fur Paris gilt das Nicht" that is nice even though it's not one of my faves. It almost sounds like a mellower Francoise Cactus (of Stereo Total) singing. She even says "Crazy Horse" (the title of a Stereo Total song from 'Juke-Box Alarm') in the lyric of the track.

4073 Hits

The Walker Brothers, "The Singles +"

From a small label in Holland comes this amazingly priced double CD set, a singles compilation from Scott Engel, John Maus and Gary Leeds, who are most commonly known as Scott, John and Gary Walker. The collection grabs 45 A-sides and popular hits from the trio both together and in solo form, stretching from 1965 through 1981.

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4841 Hits

Muslimgauze, "Fedayeen"

Bryn Jones passed away 2 years ago last week and his music lives on.Originally released free of charge as mp3s, "Fedayeen" returns as aproper limited edition on compact disc via Russian label TantraHarmonies. It comes in 2 flavors, collectable and uber-collectable: 850in color gatefold sleeve and 150, numbered, in lion logo green slipsleeve. Being around $20 and $25, respectively, and the fact that themp3s are tucked away on many a hard drive and cd-r, this disc isessentially for the must have everything folks. Jones was at anunprecedented level of prolificness in 1998-9 with 35 or so releases.The 8 tracks here (most in the 10 to 12 minute range, 61 total) sharethe same repetitious characteristics: hand percussion and crunchyelectronic loops, sample cut and paste (dialogue, bird calls, water),strings, etc. in a variety of styles: 'traditional', drum 'n bass,techno and overdriven glitch-hop. The length of these tracks makes themboth hypnotic and tedious at times but, nonetheless, qualityMuslimgauze. Of special note are "Mustafas Cassette Market Marrakesh",a blurred d 'n b blend, "Abu Salim, Tripoli", a slower techno journey,"Bharboo Of Pakistan Railways", an electro-bleep loop and "Old ArabRecord Not On Compact Disc" which regurgitates bits from old slabs ofscratchy arabic vinyl. And yes, this does sound better in cd ratherthan mp3 quality. "Melt", the sister mp3 release from 1998, will alsobe re-released as a 12" EP via BSI Records next month .

5229 Hits

Ammo, "The Age of Terminal Irony"

This Belgian duo consists of John Sellekaers and C-Drik, whose production and performance has appeared on releases from Torsion, Ambre and Snog. The debut release has taken three forms, but the one in my hands is the German CD edition. It starts off being a rather powerful foray into aggressive modern dark drum and bass.

 

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4699 Hits

2000 Readers Poll - The Results

They say history never repeats but almost unsurprisingly much of the 2000 Brainwashed Readers Poll looks closely identical to the first time we took the poll, 10 years ago. Thanks to everyone who participated in both rounds this year. Now it's time to go to your collections and dig out the music from 1999 for the nomination round (coming shortly)!

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3384 Hits