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White Noise: May 2012

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Jimmy Edgar – Majenta

Label: Hotflush

In Jimmy Edgar’s 10 years on the scene, an impressive amount of time for a man still under 30, he’s always shown a keen interest in a handful of things. The first is Techno; born in Detroit and currently based in Berlin, his early IDM releases on Warp and !K7 showed a precocious young talent who had a rare skill for micro-edits, despite a rather loose grasp over quality control. The second, on display just as much as ever on Majenta, is sex; his tracks are smutty and sleazy, from the bed-rocking funky basslines to the murmured vocal seductions, by way of some truly climactic synthwork. The vulgar obsession has always been tempered by a dark vein of humour running through Edgar’s music and lyrics, but on previous releases it was never quite matched by a coherent and impressive body of music. On Majenta Edgar has finally done good: offering a striking and immensely enjoyable mission statement that, despite an unhealthy focus on sexual depravity, is looking like one of 2012’s early highlights.

What’s immediately striking about Majenta is that despite the sleaziness and retro-fetishism, there are some serious production chops across the board; the beats are crisp and punchy, synths blurred into bright electronic smears, and the vocals occasionally humorous but always keeping with the mood- in a sentence: Edgar does smut, but he does it seriously. Part of what makes the LP such a success is that Edgar has toned down some of his previous quirks and lightning-fast beatscience to ensure that, while his style is always abundantly on display, it always importantly comes second to song writing.

This One’s For The Children

If the review is all starting to feel a little sober, don’t worry – this album is a pure delight, and will probably offer you a couple of laughs as well as more than a handful of powerful grooves and catchy hooks. Practically every track could be considered a highlight; from breathy opener Too Shy, trading in iridescent synth bounces and funky bass stabs, to Heartkey’s late-night robotic punches which erupt into gorgeous stuttered arpeggios towards the close, ending in a nakedly beautiful series of synth flutters.
Genre-fusion and the recycling of old styles are nothing new at the moment but Edgar handles both with uncommon skill; taking the spectrum of Bass music, vintage House, G-Funk, RnB and a whole lot more under his broad umbrella of electro-sleaze. More impressive still is how clear Edgar’s individual sound is despite his experimentation in a myriad of genres. We can see his musical restlessness in the differences between Edgar’s releases to date and this really works to Majenta’s advantage; keeping every track fresh and satisfying on repeated spins.  Sweaty, 80s vibes abound throughout, flipping between Edgar’s deft hand at breathless micro-edits, shown with particular aplomb on Indigo Mechanix (3D) , and simpler, hard-bodied tracks such as phenomenal lead single This One’s For The Children, which lays catchy couplets (‘we don’t like television / we don’t like new wave / we don’t like celebrities / we just want what we crave’) over a massive undulating bassline.

Touch Yr Bodytime

The experimental steps into newer territories for Edgar show him surprisingly confident and successful; the Prince-indebted Funk edge in Sex Drive (‘windows down and legs apart / look behind my beating heart’) is smutty but adds a keen tension to the sound. Elsewhere on Touch Yr Bodytime Edgar verges on Dam-Funk inspired G-Funk before adding a slew of bass-referencing loops and edits, all pulled off with a spontaneity that feels almost like Edgar’s editing before your eyes, guided solely by the pleasure principle.

Another strong highlight is middle track Let Yrself Be, which trades Edgar’s coercing tones for chopped-up bassy vocals backed up by tight filtering synthwork and vintage drum patterns. Even though this is Edgar treading new ground the result is better than the output of a lot of dedicated House producers, establishing a strong groove with clear hooks and lasting appeal in its simplicity, and this is all before the magnificent addition of that seasick ‘please’ towards the end.  Every track here demands attention; even the shorter interludes and digital exclusives; I Need Your Control hits like a brick with massive drops and funky synth strokes, while digital addition U Need Love is a love-letter to the big New Jersey House sound.


Closer In Deep cloaks Edgar’s classic sound in a deep, hazy shroud, with funky basslines and android voices floating up to the surface of a constantly shifting field of synths and beats – ‘I wanna play with you’ – goes a bit spiritual in a brief breakdown before retreating to a robotic sex temple which finds itself musically somewhere between Jazz, Trip Hop, and Prog. It sounds overblown, and it is, but somehow Edgar pulls it all together, as he does over and over again across the course of the LP. In Majenta Edgar’s humour is still intact, as is his love of sex and vocoders, but there’s a confidence to the instrumentation and details here which has a powerful effect; each track sets up a strong mood and doesn’t let go, never feeling toothless despite being less meticulously micro-programmed than some of his previous offerings. Majenta aims high but Edgar ceaselessly exceeds his lofty ambitions, crafting a sleazy, funky and sun-drenched LP that is simply unforgettable.


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Monday, 21 May 2012

Traumprinz – Paradise With A Lobotomy

Label: Kann

After a lengthy hiatus, German imprint House and Techno imprint Kann is back with a new EP courtesy of Giegling mainstay Traumprinz, who you may also know from his Prince Of Denmark moniker. Traumprinz has been steadily making a name for himself as a purveyor of finely crafted machine-house, implementing dusty textures and human touches to give a hand-crafted feel to his mechanical sound. On Paradise With A Lobotomy he excels not only in producing three superb cuts of decaying dance music but also gives the listener a real sense of variation across the tunes, resulting in an impressive and highly listenable EP.

Love Yeah

It’s hard to pick a highlight when all three tracks on offer feel so worthwhile and carefully crafted, but opener Big Baby Jesus, the straightest cut of the selection, definitely makes a strong impression. Using thick layers of ambient static as a base, Traumprinz applies a chugging 4/4 and carefully sequenced Dub Techno synthwork which filters powerfully through the mist. The Dub referencing is taken a step further later in the tune, with the echo turned up to eleven on an ethereal reggae sample which leaves a ghostly trace across the second half of the track. Even though Traumprinz uses a varied range of samples and sounds on his tracks they always meld fluidly thanks to careful mixing, resulting in tracks which feel like coherent machinations more than a collection of individual effects. Nowhere is this clearer than on second cut Love Yeah, where a similar ambient field is laid under a catchy melody of chimes and deeply atmospheric vocals embedded deep in the mix. The subtle buildup of percussive textures, each rich and organic, continues right up to the close, rewarding listeners who pay attention to the details.

Third cut Feel is the most unusual track on offer here, but that only goes to show the producer’s deft skill at implementing his unique sound in an array of different styles. A meticulously programmed drum pattern limps heftily through the opening minute of the tune before it’s joined by a host of slow, worn synth stabs and a pitch-perfect vocal sample that echoes emotively through the soundfield. A warbling vocal evokes unusual tones towards the end of the track, before only the ghostly ‘feel’ is left as the song erodes rather than fades away. The worn and dusty aesthetic of the sounds suits Traumprinz’s loping House style to a tee, showing a producer with a deep understanding of how to create punchy and unique Techno tunes which immediately grab attention and further seduce the listener on repeated spins.


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Thursday, 17 May 2012

oOoOO – Our Loving Is Hurting Us EP

Label: Triangle

It’s impossible to write a review of Christopher Greenspan’s newest EP without briefly discussing the meteoric rise and sudden dissipation of the so-called ‘Witch House’ genre in 2010. While a new group of hipster-ish producers chopping and screwing Hip Hop and RnB sounded promising at the beginning, the ‘genre’ was quickly found to be rather insubstantial and disappeared as suddenly as it came. Nevertheless, certain artists found a way to avoid being tied to the sinking ship, as oOoOO did on his first EP, which was twisted pop more than anything else, alongside the likes of Balam Acab who released a stellar aquatic debut album last year on Triangle. Still, it’s taken almost two years for Greenspan to releases just five new tracks, so one can’t help but question whether he’s weathered the storm. The answer has already divided reviewers, but I’m content to say that oOoOO is still doing what he does best, and if you discount muse-o discussions of flash-frying genres and overly critical associations with Witch House, he’s presented the world with another fine EP of Electronic music at its most sensual and ghostly.


oOoOO’s signature sound that made his name is still firmly in place here, as can be heard on opener TryTry, a glitchy assemblage of syrup-thick textures, sharp percussive clanking and ethereal chopped-up vocals. What has changed is the production quality here, the sounds; particularly the percussion, feel less cheap than they did on the debut EP (which was admittedly one if its charms), but still retain an appealing emptiness, the hollowness of the beats contrasting with rich ambient washes and drawn-out vocal variations. Although the tracks here still exist in a gothy haze, details still emerge and surprise, such as the proggy guitar-line emerging, incongruous and eerie, from the Starr’s spacious and soupy soundfield.

Elsewhere Greenspan expands his sound with the inclusion of a live vocalist, Butterclock, whose sultry vocals mix perfectly with Southern Hip Hop-styled percussion and glittering synth-lines on second cut Springs. The main attraction of Greenspan’s production has always been his great knack for creating atmosphere, and Butterclock’s vocals emphasise this continuing strength, with closer NoWayBack setting her sensuous and creepy vocals against big crunked-out bass stabs and metallic beats.

Break Yr Heartt

As good as the tracks on offer here are, it’s not irrelevant to consider that it has taken Greenspan almost two years to release just under 20 minutes of new material, and although his sound is still unique, it hasn’t dramatically progressed since his first outing. Another issue is that some of the tracks on offer here feel a little too short, like sketches that ultimately feel as if they’re building to be longer and more satisfying than a short 3-minute stretch.

But then we’re given a track like Break Yr Heartt, the penultimate track here and probably the best oOoOO has ever released. Here crystalline drum patterns duel with autotuned and screwed vocals to make some of the strangest RnB around, with the ghostly chipmunked refrain ‘I didn’t mean to break your heart’ echoing out over a cavernous, unstable space with searing strings to stunning effect. When an artist can make a song feel so powerful and unique in less than 3 minutes criticisms begin to fall away, and it’s all too easy to be seduced by the remarkable phantom atmosphere Greenspan ekes out of his machines. Yes, Our Loving Is Hurting Us leaves you wanting more but it’s enough for the time being and proves that here is a producer who will outlast the hype, let’s just hope we don’t have to wait so long for so little next time.


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Monday, 14 May 2012

Lone – Galaxy Garden

Label: R&S

Matt Cutler’s much anticipated new LP on R&S is the continuation of a young producer with an impressive back catalogue and a unique sound, but it may still come as a surprise that Galaxy Garden represents a real departure for the UK producer. While he honed a strong sound, fusing his bright colours with the existing genres of Hip Hop and House on earlier releases, here most of that is stripped away to leave just the colours and the lights, creating a different take on music that is still undeniably Cutler’s own. Galaxy Garden is a departure; from dance music, from samples, and ultimately this is both a strength and a weakness for the LP. His new sound is inviting and at times fascinating, but some tracks, pretty as they are, could ultimately be called a little unmemorable when compared to excellent releases like Emerald Fantasy Tracks or Pineapple Crush.

Cutler’s music has always courted the most vibrant extreme of Technicolour, but now his bright synths are more richly textured and three-dimensional, resulting in a jubilant atmosphere that never comes off as superficial. The production, as could be expected, is of the highest quality; the sheer amount of rhythms and melodies being juggled on these tunes is always dense but never cluttered, showing a producer who knows when to stop just before it’s all too much. Opener New Colour perfectly establishes what’s coming on the LP; not an entirely new sound for Lone but rather a new shade to be added to his repertoire. There is a richness in his bright, shifting synths and the wooden percussion that feels surprisingly organic, signalling a mastery and confidence that proves surprisingly accessible as well as impressive.

New Colour

Galaxy Garden is an aptly named album, one really has the sensation of wandering through a glistening electronic garden, with so much to see and hear seemingly coming from every direction. This is communicated through a vivid sense of exploration and curiosity, and Cutler’s choice of bright, shiny textures will make the listener keep wanting to listen and explore. The pacing Lying In The Reeds contains a real sense of movement as the tune shifts between deep hazey plateaus (reminiscent of earlier Lone productions) and racing percussive stretches, while Dream Girl / Sky Surfer is a dreamy (yes, really) number that cycles between big vibrant synthwork and a coiled percussive loop.

Raindance is almost too manic to exist but just makes the cut; intense and jubilant, it rushes past your ears to powerful effect. Elsewhere lead single Crystal Caverns 1991 is a clear standout; showcasing Cutler’s talent at combining frantic immediacy with clever structure so that his productions always feel spontaneous yet intricately laced together. Here typically intense pitch-bent synths give way to a harder, rave edge (signalling the 1991 of the title) to give the genre an excellent and thoroughly modern update, replete with the 90s staple of wordless vocal exclamations. The tune, like Cutler’s best, is always fast and exciting as well as frequently surprising, as he builds layers and proceeds to re-apply them intriguingly, building a continuity that always sounds undeniably fresh.

Crystal Caverns 1991

As breathlessly exciting as a lot of this music is, the tracks on offer are generally cut from the same sonic cloth so it might take a few listens to really differentiate between the tunes. This could leave you gasping for a little variation in the sounds, but it has the advantage of making Galaxy Garden consistent and accessible, lent coherence by the uniformly bright colours and racing rhythms.

When Cutler does change it up it’s very impressive, as on late standout Earth’s Lungs. The tune is divided into a few distinct parts and forms a sort of descent into percussive darkness; beginning with ominous clicks before dropping into something simultaneously darker and sillier (that silliness that has always made Lone’s dance productions a little different and irreverent), with churning acid basslines and crystalline synths cascading over a fractured drum loop. Other variations are not quite so impressive, such as the collaborations on offer. While Machinedrum collab As A Child starts out promisingly with a searing synth melody and rapid footwork percussion, Travis Stewart’s indie-esque vocals hold it back from achieving greatness. Meanwhile closer Spirals, with vocals from Anneka, will likely divide listeners; to some it might be a nice human touch to close out the album, but others (myself included) may find the vocals render the instrumental somewhat background-y and unobtrusive, which is the polar opposite of what one expects from Lone.


On Galaxy Garden Lone gets caught a little halfway; his new sound feels like it’s not quite mature so while some tracks are truly brilliant, others feel somewhat unremarkable. The similarity of sounds provides a good consistency and listenability but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of variation. Overall Galaxy Garden is a great achievement, and the production is top-notch at all times, but I’m more excited for what comes next, when Cutler develops this sound, than to sit listening to this LP on repeat. It’s joyous stuff, and although not everything on the LP quite hits home, Galaxy Garden provides a celebratory soundtrack to the summer that should please most comers.


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Thursday, 10 May 2012

Vessel – Standard EP

Label: Left_Blank

Just a short year after his introduction to the scene, Bristolian Sebastian Gainsborough continues to impress in each consecutive release, refining his deconsctructed House sound with its dusty structures and deep, textured grooves. Returning to the Left_Blank label that he christened with the Nylon Sunset 12” last year,  Standard shows him building on the fine tracks of his Wax Dance EP towards a sound that we’ll hear a lot more of in his upcoming LP for Triangle Records.

EP Clips

Situating himself somewhere at the intersection between Andy Stott, Downliners Sekt and Hype Williams, Vessel’s sound is still markedly individual, with his darkened atmospheres showing the same worn mechanical grooves and occasional flashes of brighter textures that disintergrate before your ears. Title track Standard is an impressive piece that manages to progress despite sounding mired in a Disco swamp, with smacked-out beats chugging along under tense seesawing synths. As it has always been with Vessel’s releases, the listener is impressed not only by the unique distorted sounds but also by unusual constructions and careful mico-edits, with each track a veritable feast of sonic details waiting to be discovered. This opener is no different, with a blunted twisting bassline taking centre stage midway through the track, almost defying the listener to dance to these valium vibes.

Second cut Merge is something new from Vessel, with a mechanical synth loop and warm pads laying a strong foundation with pacing snares for an impressively structured drop midway through the track that brings elements of Detroit machine Funk to the mix without missing a beat. A lot of the appeal of these tracks lies in the application of more colourful stabs to the eroded soundfield, but despite the masterfully intricate sound design present on all of these tunes they still have quite a niche appeal, containing within a drugged-out darkness that definitely won’t be for everyone. Nowhere is this clearer than on experimental closer Zero, hypnotizing the listener through abstraction; all processed whirring and shifting synths, the Techno equivalent of quicksand. Although his deconstructed House sound is not always an easy listen it is consistently impressive, rewarding repeated listens while showcasing the producer’s skill at crafting complex and unsettling tunes that are lodged somewhere between dance and more liberated electronic compositions. For fans of the sound that Actress brought into the spotlight a few years ago, Standard cements Vessel as an intriguing producer who could well stun on his upcoming debut LP.


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Friday, 4 May 2012

Huxley – Out Of The Box

Label: 2020 Vision

UK producer Huxley is certainly having his day in the sun at the moment; given a promising 2011, running his own label with Ethyl, DJ spots and mixes all over the place and most importantly his fantastic Let It Go single earlier this year on Hypercolour. There are surely a number of reasons for this; such as his prolific approach to production, or his keen sense of marrying smooth and catchy sounds with a real dance drive, but what his music most clearly evokes is a sense of fun. This four track EP on 2020 Vision is no different, displaying a varied set of tunes that are guaranteed not only to get your body moving, they’ll probably put a smile on your face too.

Box Clever

Opener Box Clever comes off as a bit of a sequel to Let It Go, and that is meant as a high compliment. It’s a big House tune that effortlessly emphasises of Huxley’s strong points as a producer; all rolling basslines and colourful synthwork culminating in a tune that it’s hard to stop listening to. Warm House keys come to a boil over sharp beats before the introduction of an earworm vocal line that references classic House without ever coming across as cheesy. The other tracks on offer explore the deeper end of the House spectrum, with second track Atonement building a strong groove with shuffling swung beats anchoring filtered synths and a kinetic bassline. It may come off as a bit by-the-numbers but there’s a lot of detail in the production and it would surely kill on the dancefloor.

Out Of My Mind

Third track Out Of My Mind proves a strong highlight besides the opener, as Huxley experiments with thumping 2step rhythms and ghostly diva vocals. It’s an impressive percussive workout that doesn’t let a 4/4 intrude til well past the midway point, and proves that this is a producer who has a lot to offer besides the big House tunes that are making his name. Final cut Feel What You Want is a digital exclusive that references sunny 90s House with a killer groove and well-applied vocal snippets. There’s not a great deal of variation but this breed of House excels when setting up a trance-like (the state, not the genre) groove and sticking with it, and Huxley pulls it off with style. While only a couple of these tracks are truly essential, Out Of The Box shows a producer at the very top of his game, changing up his ideas and style while always keeping it smooth, exciting and eminently danceable.


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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

April Roundup

I haven’t been hugely on it this month with holidays getting in the way, but we've been spoiled for singles this April, alongside a few fantastic LPs (check out LHF and Actress’ new albums). But that’s not to say I haven't heard loads of great tunes this month, so here’s my pick of the litter.

Kicking off with more upbeat numbers as per usual, we start with Andrés’ instant classic New For U and a few choice Bass and House cuts from stalwarts XXXY and Huxley. Following is some fine Funky from The Town and a couple of choice remixes; Lone’s reworking of Midland’s Placement and Kevin McPhee’s chugging Techno reworking of Sepalcure. Moving off the dancefloor to darker territories is Amen Ra’s spiritual and stunning Akashic Visions. Actress provides atmosphere in spades before Beaumont’s 80s-worshipping synth odyssey Never Love Me. Next is Lungs, an intriguing project by London-based vocalist Py, produced by White Noise favourite George Fitzgerald. Some slow-burn 303 Techno is delivered courtesy of Recondite, then things get moody with Synkro’s drum workout and Vessel’s smacked-out death disco in Standard. oOoOO closes shop with twisted ghostly style with the final cut from his brand new Our Loving Is Killing Us EP. Enjoy!

Andrés – New For U
Huxley – Box Clever
XXXY – Everything
The Town – The Movement
Midland – Placement (Lone Remix)
Sepalcure – The One (Kevin McPhee Remix)
Amen Ra – Akashic Visions
Actress – IWAAD
Beaumont – Never Love Me
Py – Lungs
Recondite – Tie In
Synkro – Knowledge
Vessel - Standard
oOoOO – NoWayBack

Previous Months:

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