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richard devine, "lipswitch"

The downfall of the modern age is that any 19 year old with rich parents and an arsenal of computer software can record an album in their house. But what do these vicious young upstarts really know about melody, composition and structure yet?

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6461 Hits

monster movie

First of all I want to say how much of a thrill it was to see thatsomebody else from Slowdive is finally releasing music again. Slowdivewas possibly one of the best components of the shoegazing movement thattrickled out of the United Kingdom in the early 1990s, before the groupsplit, they released a departure from the blurry guitars and buriedvocals, 'Pygmalion', which despite being a fucking incredible release,was nowhere close to the charm and happiness experienced with 1993's'Souvlaki'. So the group called it quits and the singer went on topursue Mojave 3, which was decent in my opinion, but never something Iwould pull from the racks and listen to on a regular basis. Now thisshows up at my doorstep - a five-track EP from former Slowdiver SeanHewson with somebody I'm unfamiliar with, Christian Savill. From thefirst blurry guitar chords, it's refreshing to hear notes from a soulbehind a three of my favorite albums of the last decade. When thevocals start, however, it becomes painfully apparent that these chapsare neither good singers nor lyricists. To its defense, the EP hasgrown on me very very very slightly over the time that it's been in mypossession. Plus, these songs will probably be able to muster up somegood press and a decent amount of attention from college radio. At theend of the 20 minutes, however, I'm left unsatisfied, but all the whilewaiting to see if they can get their shit together for a decent debutalbum.

 

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3907 Hits

JAH WOBBLE & EVAN PARKER, "PASSAGE TO HADES"

Over the past few years bass maven Jah Wobble has collaborated with anumber of varied artists including his own Deep Space ensemble, MolamLao members, a brief stint in post-rock outfit the Damage Manual andhere virtuoso saxophonist Evan Parker. "Passage to Hades" consists offour 9 to 14 minute tracks combining trademark Wobble band hypnoticworld-dub groove with Parker's circular breathing, free jazz abstractsoundscaping. The title track settles into a smooth, lumbering bassline and sticks with it as Parker gently drones in tenor and Deep Spacemembers Clive Bell and Jean-Pierre Rasle add flirtations of Thai pi sawflute, harmonica and bagpipes. "Giving Up the Ghost" varies the tempomore by fading Wobble and drummer Mark Sanders out a few times and backin at a different pace. Parker flutters and squawks in soprano, takingon a shimmering quality as notes are swallowed up and fed back throughthe mix. "Full On" features the most aggressive bass workout but Bell'sstereo goathorns are a bit too overbearing thus, unfortunately,dominating the track. And on "Finally Cracked It", Sanders lays down amildly funky rock rhythm for Wobble's rigorous bass line to lock into.Parker is in exceptional form here layering tenor drones and darting inand out with pretty reverberated riffs. Altogether, "Passage to Hades"is another successful collaboration for Wobble with predictable butbeautiful results. It seems that most anything and everything workswell with Wobble's low end led liaisons. Jah Wobble and Deep Space willtour major U.S. cities in May

 

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3861 Hits

"re:kusaki, michiko kusaki remixed"

Come on baby, let's rock baby. With all the different mega-buzzworthyamusing modern electronic artists collected on this one CD, all I canthink of after hearing 17 remixes of and tributes to "Come on baby,lets rock baby" is exactly that. The disc starts out with aninstrument-free spoken word track from Chicks on Speed and continueswith contributions from American, European and Japanese electronicistslike GD Luxxe, Console, Adult, Pita, Sylvester Boy and DMX Krew. It'sthe eighth release from Angelika Koehlermann, an Austrian label formedby people from the Cheap and Mego labels. I suppose it would make moresense to me if I actually owned the 1999 release from the fragile andfeministic Osakan singer Michiko Kusaki, whose album released by AKallegedly had 8 top ten singles from, of which the hit "Let's RockBaby" was born. Since everybody apparently missed all these hits fromMichiko Kusaki, Angelika Koehlermann felt it their duty to compile atribute to the record. Whether it's the blippy Adult, cute Japanesestyles of Shinto, the horn-stem-funk friendly Mixmup, noise onslaughtof Obscurum, children's tv show theme-esque Bodenständig 2000,Casiotone tunage of Yoko Tsuno or the New Order-worshipping GD Luxxe,these tracks never get tired or worn, old or uncool. Summer is on itsway and this disc provides a great soundtrack for a trip to the beach.I'm now itching to hear what the hell the hoopla is all about from theoriginal release from 1999.

 

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4491 Hits

AU REVOIR BOREALIS, "TIENKEN"

Au Revoir Borealis (clever name, eh?) are a four piece band fromDetroit who have played live with Jessica Bailiff, Windy & Carl,The Autumns, LN and the like. They appeared last year on volume 1 ofE+J Recordings "Sculpting Nick Drake" tribute and "Tienken" is theirself produced and released debut EP. Six tracks, half of which aretitled songs and the other half untitled instrumentals, make up the 25minutes. Points of reference for their sound, besides those they'veplayed with, might include Cocteau Twins with a dash of Sigur Ros and apinch of My Bloody Valentine. "Heavens Downward" poeticizes a nighttimesnowfall against a lush electric guitar/synth cloud and gentlebass/drums pulse. Stephanie Halpert's heavenly voice repeats 'I couldlose myself in this' as I think the same thing to myself, though I'mreferring to the music rather than the precipitation. "Waldorf TheftSong" is a tad more upbeat with more of a synth pad presence andguitars restrained to non distorted tones. Lyrically it centers aroundthe mysterious lines 'falling away into the waiting field' (or is it'into the way you feel'?) and 'the Waldorf is something I might like tosteal'. After the rhythmic synth gurgling of interlude track 4, thedeeply moody "Monolith" slowly takes shape out of the atmosphericaether. Here the words are more personal and full of longing, Halpertbegging 'hold my heart in your heart, say I can stay, can stay'. Thefinal track gracefully closes the disc with pretty de-tuned guitarnotes in an effected wash. A wonderfully emphatic and impressive debut.Here's hoping the next disc gives us much more. Be sure to play withtheir fun to navigate web site aurb.org.

 

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3580 Hits

The Rip Off Artist, "Brain Salad Surgery"

Bumped into Matt Wand of Stock, Hausen & Walkman as he was hawkingthe new Rip Off Artist CD to the Manchester shops. Opening his box ofHot Air to reveal brains aplenty: "You can have one for a fiver if youwrite a good review!" Thus bribed I went home to ruminate on whetherthis Rip Off Artist was some kind of scam since my first impression wasthat this could feasibly be a follow up to Stock, Hausen &Walkman's wry techdance appropriator 'Oh My Bag!' Hot air has neverbeen proven magnetic so maybe it's just a case of like attracting like.Whoever he's ripping off, the bribe was not necessary. The Rip OffArtist is said to have recorded this in Southern California. There aresome quirky Matmosian shuffles in there, or am I just hearing thisbecause I played this right after the 'California Rhinoplasty' EP? TheRip Off Artist, or Matt Haines as his mum probably insists on callinghim, uses a smaller range of sounds, or at least his sources seem lessdramatic, mostly relying on good old frazzled bleepery, but he has alighthearted foot shuffling fluid beat organisation technique which isexactly what you might expect from Hot Air, if indeed you expectedanything at all from this slightly odd and idiosyncratic label. The RipOff Artist is alleged to have helped out Uwe Schmidt with recording andhas thus been accused of ripping off Atom Heart. I haven't heard enoughAtom Heart to know if that's so, but this is certainly a rapid motionmelodic addition to the ever expanding quirky sampled cut up beatsglut. Is the cover picture of a brain just a ploy to get a glowingwrite up on this Brain? No, it's not, but how can an album that openswith a track about how 'Asparagus Spears My Artichoke Hearts' possiblybe less than soupy?
Hot Air website: www.simplesampling.com

 

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3313 Hits

MOBLIN, "CPROMPT"

Moblin is Chris Ragnar Bergen, multi-talented artist and apparentproprietor of thistownisdoomed.com. Bergen has an obvious predilectionfor old school computing and gaming, namely Dos and 8 bit Nintendo, asevidenced from the moniker (a character from the NES "Legend of Zelda"series), title and artwork. Perhaps it's this love of fun and engaginginteractive machines that provides his penchant for likewiseelectronica. The 11 cute and/or oddly titled tracks that make up the38+ minutes of "CPrompt" draw upon the playfulness of those classicvideo game themes and the influence of fellow modern electronicswizards such as Kid 606 and Matmos. Moblin's sound set is predominantlywarm tones, bass and beats with similar samples and the occasionaloutburst of static or noise. At times it's a chaotic barrage of splicedsamples and at others a markedly restrained ambient walk in the park.But it's Bergen's skill in data sequencing and attention to precisedetail that makes these tracks special ... test tones, ripplingglitches, minuscule loops, fuzzy melodies and appropriated rhythm bitsseemingly fall into place rather effortlessly. This is really highquality stuff that bears repeated listening. Judge for yourself withmp3s of four full tracks at thistownisdoomed/moblin. Next up for Moblinis 2 tracks on a 7" for the Itcfwak label and a new EP entitled "TheWar On Drugs is a Joke."

 

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3537 Hits

mogwai, "rock action"

Mogwai are back, but are they better than ever? Fans of these Scottishlads and their music tend to be rabid, so this is one of the mosteagerly awaited CDs of the year. Much more concise than their otherreleases (read: shorter), Rock Action is Mogwai's most musicallyambitious release in terms of arrangements and their finest effort todate, warts and all. Gone are the 16 minute epics that marked "YoungTeam" and later releases; here to stay are killer melodies and lovelyarrangements. Yes, there are a few let downs. The opening track, "SineWave," while scary and malicious, sounds a bit too much like "A WarmPlace" by Nine Inch Nails/"Crystal Japan" by David Bowie. And "RobotChant" sounds like what Mogwai ends their shows with: distortion pedalson stun + volume on 11 = fuck the audience! The high notes leave thesemissteps in their dust. The finest track, "2 rights make 1 wrong" willthrill fans everywhere with it's melodic beauty, and "you don't knowjesus" sounds just like the title suggests, destroying your faith atits basic levels. There's even vocals on four tracks, including a fineguest appearance on "dial:revenge" by Gruff Rhys from Super FurryAnimals singing in his native Welsh. On "Take Me Somewhere Nice," it'sclear just how much guitarist/vocalist Stuart Braithwaite's deliveryhas improved, and the lyrics are far more understandable this time. Allin all, a great release for them and you. Earplugs are recommended,even with your headphones on.

 

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4136 Hits

kristin hersh, "sunny border blue"

The brand new full-lengther from former Throwing Muses vocalist/lyricist/boss is undeniably her greatest solo achievement. The rocky road Hersh has endured over the last few years has surfaced into an explosive collection of gut-wrenching songs. After fifteen years of hearing her voice, I can safely say there is absolutely no comparison to this one-woman powerhouse of skill and talent - her voice, playing and writing styles are all part of the package deal.

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3439 Hits

Mothboy, "Raw Loops And Numb Breaks Vol I"

Simon Smerdon has got the funk. It's come up from out of nowhere,bitten him on the ass and he's all the better for it. Recently seen oncompilations like 'Economi$ed' and Low-End Recon,' Simon was one of theprogenitors of the 'Dark Hop' movement in former project Ocosi, buthere has moved on sonically, passing on the trance-inducing, minimalbeats and bass of previous Mothboy releases to create somethingentirely new. 'Raw Loops...' sees the Moth branching out into some ofhis finest, most fucked up work yet; the Eno-esque piano motifs of'Your Fingers Pt 2.' wouldn't be out of place in the sets of mostambient DJs, while 'Safe As Houses' amps up the funk to Guru- andPremier-type levels. The liquid guitar work of 'Midnight FunkAssociates' is one to listen for with its rattling hi-hats and stonedurban cowboy kinda drawl. It sucks you in and never lets go. With suchquality beats afoot, it's not surpising that certain heavybeat-oriented labels are already coming a' calling, so here's toanother volume's worth of sick beats and deconstructed funk.

 

3195 Hits

couch, "profane"

I must admit at the first few listens I wasn't quite blown away by the latest release from yet another instrumental rock band of Germans who refuse to admit they're influenced by Neu! 'Profane' is their fourth full-length album, and first release to be issued in Europe, North America and Japan simultaneously (as opposed to 'Fantasy': out on Kitty-Yo in 1999, surfacing on Matador USA and Japan in 2000).

Kitty-Yo (DE) / Matador (US)

Profane

In its defense, the beats are quite meaty while the production allows each member's contribution to be well-defined. Unfortunately most of the tracks are entirely too repetitious, often lacking a strong 'lead instrument' such as a trumpet, voice, organ or even guitar melody to carry the songs. My excitement perks up by the third track, "Was alles hält." Directly translated as 'Which Everything Holds,' this gem is a compelling electronic bubblebath with sounds and tunes to satiate any To Rococo Rot fan anxious for a new release. Following that, "12 Sind Nur 4" (12 is only 4) is an upbeat, energetic jam that opens strong, builds nicely and basically rocks out, displaying the group's performance talents as a cohesive element. The rest of the disc actually builds well on this foundation, following a pattern of bringing an instrument to the foreground, coloring the background with horns and cello from special guest musicians including Marcus Acher (The Notwist, Lali Puna, Tied and Tickled Trio). All in all, it's a fairly decent record, which makes me anxious to see the group perform live rather than satiate me 100%.

 

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3429 Hits

hank & slim, "the world turned gingham"

A fictitious bio describes Hank & Slim as a 60+ year old duo fromTexas who collaborated and then had a falling out, moved their separateways and never spoke again. In actuality it's Robin Storey (of Rapoon)and Nigel Ayers (Nocturnal Emissions) and the fictitious story is themost entertaining aspect of this disc. 'The World Turned Gingham' is asomewhat sparse and limited version of KLF's timeless monumentalclassic 'Chill Out'. It's laden with old western tunes twanging away ingated echoes, meshing in with a sparse Angelo Badalamenti-wannabekeyboard background, mixed with radio broadcasts which could be real,but probably fictitious. While the disc worked for unobtrusivebackground noise while filing taxes and recovering from a fatteningEaster dinner, I honestly couldn't stop thinking of how I'd rather belistening to "Chill Out."

 

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4364 Hits

JURGEN DE BLONDE, "HIDDEN RABBIT"

In most places where this is listed for sale, it is called "1", not"nullpluze.nz"; just so you know if you're looking for it. MichaelFakesch (Funkstörung) wrote a glowing review of it, and that is whatmost folks post as a blurb. And why not? Fakesch (and Deluca) releasedit on their excellent Musik Aus Strom, and one can see where it crosseslines with their music. Where Funkstörung just cant seem to helpthemselves in the "I'm-not-gunna-let- this-beat-run-in- straight-meter"tomfuckery, Crunch lets the beats run in straight meter. He picks somehighly digitized sounds and builds with that, none of the 4000 samplesper 3 minutes here. There are changes, great changes, sweeping changeswithin each track even, but it seems more within the scope of thetrack. If you've ever thought or said, "this funkstörung record isgreat but i wish they'd keep a beat and stop showing me how manymillions of samples they have stored", then this is close to what youasked for. Most of the record is decidedly downtempo, eitherhead-noddingly slow, pulse beat or beatless; synth washes are generallyon the somber side, with melodies subtle and often quite beautiful.Most of the programming sounds pretty complex, if controlled.Headphones are recommended for occasional use. Overall, this is verynicely varied electronic music, really one of the best in recent monthsI've heard. Somehow original sounding enough in a genre fast becominghomogenous. If you get the chance, get it on thick slabby double vinyl,in the great sleeve Fakesch got gooey about. I don't have anything badto say about this record and I'm really looking forward to other stufffrom this anonymous outfit. If you want a comparison beyondFunkstorung, none of this would sound out of place on a Schematic MusicCompany compilation. Very recommended. Thank you for your time.

 

3422 Hits

V/A, "SUBSTANCIA 3"

"Substancia 3" gathers mostly exclusive/forthcoming tracks from 11artists on Belgium's Quartermass roster: DJ Wally, Bisk, Benge,Freeform, Shudo, Fisherofgold, Mash'ta, Bump & Grind, Rip-OffArtist, Richard Thomas & Jon Tye and Tal. Now I know why I don'town anything from the Quartermass roster. There is variation -illbient, electro funk, breakbeats, sample mania (think Coldcut, onlynowhere near as cool) - but not much of anything of interest. Justtired and tedious sounds, samples, effects and sequences and songs thatgo nowhere. Freeform's "Cantho" wins the coveted 'sucks the least'crown by trading off atmospheric thumps with cacophonous outbursts ofpots and pans percussion. Benge and Fishertogold's space technoofferings grow dull quick. Shudo's "Bringing Together the Best" failsto do that in its mess of drum loops, drone and cliche scratch sample.Richard Thomas and Jon Tye do something a bit more experimental withvarious samples, but in the end it sounds like a funeral march througha pet store. That's it. I can't take anymore. I want to wash my earsout with something good now.

 

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3613 Hits

james plotkin: trifid project and atomsmasher

While listening to the Trifid Project EP, it became known to me that anumber of email list members have been wondering what Jimmy Plotkin hasbeen up to lately. While the man hasn't been releasing material on thebigger indie labels, a few things have managed to surface. The TriffidProject is a collaborative effort with members of Ant-Zen superstarsCelluloid Mata and Ultra Milkmaids which takes the form of a shortsix-track CD and clear 10" record (limited to 400 copies). It's beenreleased through the young Vacuum label through some unknown agreementwith Ant-Zen. The music is abrupt and attention-grabbing, with quirkysamples, spinning tapes, distorted aggression, processed vocals andchunky beats. While it only stretches about 22 minutes, these are someof the finest electronic manglings I've heard recently — combining awonderful atmospheric makeup with unobtrusive guitar, live bass guitarand coldly calculated, crunchy, intelligent, overprocessed beats.
Atomsmasheris a new group which features Plotkin, DJ Speedranch and David Witte ondrums. While we wait for a full-length release, a pre-release CDR-EPhas managed to find its way into a small number of shops, courtesy ofthe Boston-based noise-loving label, Hydrahead. Atomsmasher, unlike theTriffid Project, is almost pure aggression, with speed-metal resoundingriffage, drilling distorted vocals, and tons of computerized electronicreprocessing. Strangely approaching jazz-like in the way everybodywished Praxis would pursue following their 'Sacrifist' LP. This disc isfairly short too, three tracks and under 10 minutes, but for thesticker price, it's a must-have. Unfortunately its scarcity (limited tosomething absurd like 100 copies) has given this release the potentialto become inflated far beyond the musical value on future onlineauctions. A new full-length should have these tracks. Speaking of thefull-length album, when I looked at this label's website I find nothingon this release or a full-length. What gives, guys? Now you know whatPlotkin's been up to.

 

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4959 Hits

morgenstern, "cold"

Although firmly rooted in the realm of power electronics, Morgenstern'slatest release tends to use this footing more as a springboard forother ideas and actions, rather than as an end in itself. Unlike Slogunand Control, just to name two others who use power electronics,Morgenstern is using this framework as the building blocks that enablethe exploitation of rhythm, distortion, tribal trance and other,darker, elements. Atmospherically, 'Cold' is all about opposites;aggression vs. meditation (or loud vs. quiet).
The first track, which gives the album its name, is a good example ofthe quiet side of this release. Calm, brooding, trance-like, but in theend very unsettling. This trance atmosphere, with the help of somebackground voices, ushers in the second track, which uses similartechniques to heighten the sense of disquiet. The electronics are alsointensified, so while this is not an assault of the type Whitehousemight produce, the sense of serenity is now missing. This bridgebetween the two tracks also a microcosm of the overall release. Worksslowly build and fade, forming a unique texture and flow. It is thethird song "Hypnotized," however, in which the potential of the firsttwo is in bloom. The distortion is way out there, the rhythm ispounding, driving, and the vocals are handled in such a way as to leaveany goth fan speechless (that and the constant church bell in thebackground). This track is a marriage between power electronics attheir finest, and all the best of Muslimgauze's later distortion, withthe fourth track takes expanding on this theme. Thundering, pounding,weaving in and out, the harsher elements are actually somewhatdiminished here, yet the distortion and rhythm are magnified.Furthermore, whatever is being done with the vocals, both in theforeground and background, is a flowering of pure evil. After a ratherghostly ending, an even harder song, the centerpiece of the album'saggression, "Insight" begins. Here the power electronics are at theirmost impressive, the distortion is constant, and the droney elementsare turned way down, which allows the vocals to take center stage.
The unique flow of this release is then restored on the next song,aptly titled "Interlude." Near playfulness a la Nurse With Wound over aheavy undercurrent. Here we are given time to rest and collectourselves, yet when we become aware of our sonic surroundings, they areno less disturbing than everything that has come before this. On theseventh song the slow build starts again. By the ninth track, after asuccession of builds, the intensity subsides again. Swirling anddreamy, the rhythm resembles the beat of a human heart, and one getsthe sensation of gaining entrance to another realm. The last piece,"Over," brings the listener back to the mood created by the one withwhich Cold began. More rhythmic than the first, but is no lessparadoxical, and just as its title suggests, that is how Morgensternleaves us.

 

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3502 Hits

Red House Painters, "Old Ramon"

How long after an album is completed does it take to be released? A few weeks? A few months? Red House Painters' sixth full-length album came out earlier this week - three years to the month of its completion, tied up in major label buyout limbo and searching for a worthy new home. Thanks to the folks at Sub Pop for realizing this record, a warm welcome after years since Songs for a Blue Guitar.

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3872 Hits

arab strap, "the red thread"

Exactly 57 minutes. Ten songs. Slightly sinister. Very sensual. Damn depressing. Though the title refers to the Eastern supposition that each of us is connected to our one, true love by an invisible cord, 'The Red Thread' unravels a fascinating and devastating mess of frayed relationships and tattered egos. It's like watching a violent movie spectacle: you can't help getting sucked in, as much as you believe in real life you'd turn the other way. Aiden Moffat's lyrics, often muttered or tossed off in a thick Scottish accent, grow gradually decipherable with each listen.

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3647 Hits

KANDIS, "1996-99"

Kandis is the first of at least three monikers to date for electronic artist Jens Massel, his releases as Kandis, Senking and Fumble making up the bulk of Karaoke Kalk's 5 year deep back catalog. This digipacked disc collects 14 tracks from the four 12"s spanning 1996-1999, which seems to be the year Massel retired the project. Honestly, it doesn't much matter which name he uses as the differences among and quality of the music of each is negligible.

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3671 Hits

"DID YOU SEE"

"Did You See" is the third various artists compilation from Surrey, UKbased label deFocus. As the title implies, this disc collects tracksyou might have missed from already released deFocus albums and singles,as well as a few tracks from the two v/a 12"s "Do You See" and "Two YouSee". Six artists - Lackluster, Aphelion, CiM, +one, John Tejada andEsem - produce a dozen tracks interspersed with cute half minute'intervals' by CiM. Their work is very reminiscent of the more sublimemoments in Warp's 'Artificial Intelligence' electronic mood musicseries of the early '90s. Lots of space-y pads, warm melodies andmellow beats. In fact, the aural aesthetic of these artists is sosimilar it almost sounds as if all the tracks could have come from asingle one of them and a single rack of gear. But that's more of anobservation than a complaint really. Aphelion's "Click" rolls with adriving, funky drummer rhythm. CiM bring in some scratching and mildfunk hop grooves. Lackluster's "Ix Pen" is the most, well, lacklusterof the lot while the 'brothomstates remix' of "Suntrap" steps up andout with rapidly sequenced synth notes and beats. And Jon Tejada's"Disappear" adds a bit of jazz and house flavor. All in all a niceselection. I still dig this sound nearly a decade after I firstdiscovered it. It's good to hear someone continuing to explore it ...

 

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3173 Hits