This Page

has moved to a new address:


Sorry for the inconvenience…

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
White Noise: August 2013

Friday, 30 August 2013

Forest Swords - Engravings

Label: Tri Angle

While obviously grounded in the aural domain, some music is so imagistic that one cannot help but find listening a visual experience. On certain albums, each song will soundtrack imaginary films, as melodies and rhythms engage the cinema of your inner eye as well as your ear. Matthew Barnes’ astonishing debut EP as Forest Swords, Dagger Paths, was just such a record. Drawing liberally from distinct pools of influences; dub, rock, Eastern melodies and even RnB, it was not Barnes’ corralling of genres which impressed the listener – it was the mesmerising power of that music to evoke atmospheres, images and moods. The sound of Forest Swords was strikingly original: clattering percussion and deep dubby basslines conjured hazy atmospheres which bordered on the mystical, as powerful guitar riffs coursed through the terrain; resulting in a sound that felt ancient, powerful and seductive.

After three years of radio silence (he has been missed), Barnes finally returns for Forest Swords’ first LP, Engravings. This fittingly marks his entry to the Tri Angle stable, whose reputation for experimental long players, atmospheric but always pop-aware, precedes them. Do not expect a grand departure: Engravings is in every way a continuation of the Forest Swords sound, a deeper exploration of the project’s meditative terrain, delivering and even exceeding the promise so evident in those early releases. While this may disappoint the few hoping for a dramatic stylistic shift, the majority will not fail to be humbled by the depth and power of Forest Swords’ first full-length statement.

Thor's Stone

Indeed, while on first listen these songs may sound similar to Dagger Paths, this is mostly due to Barnes’ establishment of a remarkably distinct sound, which he plies here in a dazzling array of iterations. Each track is a rich tapestry of sound, offering new ground for the listener to chart and explore over repeated listens, revealing hidden depths. Yet this is not opaque music – the mist has cleared somewhat since those early EPs, and there is a new clarity to the arrangements as Barnes refines rather than piling on layers, drawing out the essential hooks and grooves in each distillation.

The music of Forest Swords comes pre-aged and organic, the simmering atmospherics and hefty lope of Ljoss introducing the sound that the album will continue to explore. As the song wears on, the ambient sounds are tied brilliantly to a chunky guitar riff in trademark style, showing Barnes’ talent for marrying vital experimental atmospheres and arresting melodic hooks. Follow-up Thor’s Stone is another strong example, where a mesmeric Eastern melody comes out of nowhere to dominate the distorted vocals and rattling drumhits of the track’s second half.

The Weight of Gold

While the conflation of referenced genres is difficult to unpick, some of the album’s strongest songs veer closer to established forms. Sinuous dubwise basslines underpin the syrup-thick atmospherics of Irby Tremor, only to be cannibalised by haunting synth sirens and sudden squalls of distorted melody.  Meanwhile a greater interest in vocal manipulation can be found on the likes of Anneka’s Battle, as the singer’s voice is twisted elegantly around some of the album’s more delicate guitar-work, before surrendering to a whirring synth which brings the track to its hypnotic conclusion. There are clearer traces of electronic manipulation than were present in earlier works, such as the numerous canny intros and outros which take the form of staccato vocal manipulations, fluidly serving as both mood-setters and palette-cleansers between the main courses. Late entry Gathering is in fact composed of these stop-start vocal samples, the liquid keys of its latter half making for one of the album’s most bewitchingly transcendent moments.

An album so rich in detail and mystique is sure to draw different listeners to different highlights, but a pair of melodic crescendos make for some of the album’s most nakedly beautiful moments. There’s a trace of the eternal in the beautiful piano loop that makes up the core of An Hour, an RnB-infused number with ghostly vocals that you’ll want to return to. It is earlier, however, amidst the angular percussion of Onward where Engravings achieves what is, for this reviewer, its prime moment of sublime inspiration. Building over a soft, lingering guitar melody, the gasping percussion and sluggish basslines disappear, giving way to the rise of an astonishingly moving string section, distorted as if heard from a tinny radio yet sacrificing none of its emotional power. The percussion builds anew, a fevered march, atavistic in its yearning and unstoppably propulsive – and then it’s gone. A single moment like this in an hour of music would make for something very special indeed, but Engravings is full of these strokes of inspiration, the engaged listener need only enter the forest and seek them.


Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

ON: ava

Hello, and welcome to a new regular column of White Noise. In On, I’ll take a more personal approach, sharing particular sounds or discussing key issues in the scene at the moment. The series could focus on specific artists or labels, or explore and draw links within the scene as a whole.

For the inaugural edition, I’d like to shine a spotlight on the Cologne-based ava imprint, a label run by rising star Damiano Von Erckert. While the label evidently excels because of its music, I have to admit that I was first attracted to the label due to its aesthetic. A vein of nostalgia runs through each of ava’s releases, drawing influence from the sounds, sights, music and films of the 70s, 80s and 90s. These references are especially evident in the label’s record covers: photos and titles borrowed from films (Reservoir Dogs, say, or Fight Club). It’s clear that for Von Erckert, ava is a labour of love, each record handmade and issued as a limited release (the cover of his debut collaborative album even featured real feathers on the cover).

Tito Wun - The Way U Do It

The music itself is a refreshing blend of styles which, despite its obvious nostalgia for music past, manages to sound distinctly modern - one could never mistake ava’s output for lazy throwback. Many of the releases start with a core house template but incorporate elements of soul, funk, jazz and hip hop, threaded together with warmth and an eye for killer grooves. Motor City Drum Ensemble would be an obvious touchstone; but the ava stable are more adventurous, straying further from the standard house template.

So who are ava’s key players? The first call has to be von Erckert himself, whose particularly impressive releases have marked some of the label’s finest moments to date. After receiving rejections from a series of labels for his promos, von Erckert decided to set up ava and offered its first solo release in the form of 2011’s I Think We Agree, The Past Is Over. The EP's highlight came in the form of Housem, a glorious slice of filter-disco shot through with swooning diva samples and an irresistible 4/4 groove (for those who missed the vinyl, a remastered version will be available as a WEB on his forthcoming album). Von Erckert most prominently stepped out with this year’s mini-LP Mr. Pink, What Have You Been Smokin’, a collaboration with local beatsmith Tito Wun. The release is a delight from start to finish, taking the form of a woozy lover’s mixtape which blends soul, hip hop and house sounds with a surprising level of cohesion. The album also showed von Erckert's versatility as he nimbly stepped from the emotive strains of Leave Uuu to the upbeat funk workout of The Dude Loop, a track fortified by a tough house backbone. Nor should collaborator Tito Wun’s offerings be ignored, the superb The Way U Do It showing an equally talented producer who could recontextualise dusty funk samples with an unerring hit rate.

Damiano von Erckert & Funkycan - Symphonie of a Brother

Besides von Erckert,  a couple of producers have stood out proud on ava’s roster. Funkycan’s excellently-titled EP, We Were Raised To Believe That Someday We Were All Gonna Have Great Beards, showed a dynamic producer with a specialty in deeper material. Nowhere was this clearer than on the stunning CGN – GZT, a deceptively simple number in which the core loop was all that was needed, a sunken groove layered with deep, melancholy melodics which don’t get old no matter how many times you hit repeat (I can speak as something of an authority on this point.) Attention should also be paid to the superb von Erckert / Funkycan collaboration Symphonie of a Brother, the highlight of ava’s first release, a blisteringly soulful groove laden with soaring strings and a striking vocal sample championing the pen over the sword:
I said, “Arm me, send me on a mission. I’m ready to kill whitey right now’…This brother opens his desk, and he pulls out – he reaches real low, and I say back to my boy ‘he’s gonna give me a big gun, you see how far down he’s reaching in the desk’ – and he pulls out a stack of books. And I said, ‘excuse me brother, you said you were gonna arm me. And he says, ‘excuse me young brother, I just did’.

Murat Tepeli - Forever (Prosumer's Hold Me Touch Me Remix)

The other artist so far granted a solo release on ava is Murat Tepeli, perhaps best known for his collaborative work with Panorama Bar's Prosumer. On the Fee Fi Foe Funk For Me EP, Tepeli unleashed a pair of raw house grooves, tougher than anything on ava to date but still settling neatly into the label’s style. FFFFUNK and Forever recall Tepeli’s best solo releases to date (which are, by my estimation, Work It and Workinstrugglin), yet the release’s undoubted highlight was Prosumer’s ‘Hold Me Touch Me’ remix of Forever, a dangerous slice of late-nite house where a venomous piano stab reigns supreme.

ava has been going from strength to strength since its inception, but a particularly strong showing in 2013 should help catapult the label into the limelight it deserves. Particular attention should be paid to von Erckert’s first album-proper, LOVE BASED MUSIC, scheduled for release in September. For my money it’s the label’s best release to date, combining all of the label’s interests in an unstoppable package (with more disco flavours than ever before courtesy of some great live singers).

In a musical landscape overcrowded by labels constantly looking for the ‘next big thing’ regardless of style, it’s satisfying to see an imprint so confident of its visual and sonic aesthetic, for whom each release expands and explores the ava sound while remaining loyal to the label’s well-conceived style. The stable's core group of producers collaborate and remix each others' tunes, giving the impression of a label family whose warmth and sense of fun translate well into their music (indeed, look at Damiano's tongue-in-cheek trailer for his forthcoming album).  For that reason they’re more than worth championing and sharing, not just to draw deserved attention to a superb imprint, but because we need as many labels like ava as we can get.

Essential ava tracks:

Funkycan: CGN - GZT

 Damiano Von Erckert: Housem

Damiano Von Erckert: The Dude Loop

Damiano Von Erckert feat. Georgia Anne Muldrow: Hollywood


Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, 26 August 2013

Shigeto - No Better Time Than Now

Label: Ghostly International

Despite his Michigan roots, beatmaker Shigeto (aka Zach Saginaw) has long drawn comparisons to the burgeoning LA beat scene, producing off-kilter hip hop beats shot through with jazz and soul. Shigeto’s two albums to date have impressed but come off ultimately lacking, yet Saginaw’s talent as a percussionist has always been abundantly clear; his rich, live drum sounds replacing the tinny machinedrum loops of many of his Californian peers. After two long players, Full Circle and Lineage, which came across as examinations of nostalgia and the continuing effect of the past on the present, the title and musical content of his third full-length show Saginaw turning to face the present, resulting in his strongest, most confident release to date.

The thing it’s impossible to miss here is how beautifully produced every track on here is: each sound and instrument infuse the listening space with a rich warmth, bringing the listener’s attention to the myriad details that make up each sonic tapestry. The composition itself is also a huge step up for Shigeto, who shows a sonic adventurousness as he allows his sound to expand and move across different motifs and styles within the space of a single track. This thrilling restlessness is best encapsulated on the likes of Detroit Part 1, where a dense beat field recalls FlyLo (but richer, more expensive), as soulful chords give way to a sophisticated chiming melody, drawing the track into a warbling analog synth-jam where it concludes. Each phrase moves into the next organically and unpredictably, showing off Saginaw’s new production chops.

One of the album’s other showstoppers is follow-up Ringleader, a complex song hewn from jazzy drumwork and gorgeous melodies that burst from the speakers with uninhibited joy.  Yet Saginaw’s new talents are not limited to beat-tracks - indeed some of No Better Time Than Now’s strongest moments are on its beatless numbers. Opener First Saturn Return is a beautiful foray into cosmic jazz where luscious keys roll over a whirring synth that gains in speed, as searing woodwind join the mix in a moment of alchemic power and elegance. Later, on album highlight Miss U, Shigeto drops the pace, allowing mournful Rhodes keys to play out over reverbed chimes and yearning atmospherics.

The range of styles and forms across the album show an artist utterly unrestrained by genre boundaries and established forms, as Saginaw moves through styles and tempos with the deft hand of an experienced virtuoso. While all of the tracks may not leave the lasting impact of the album’s best, No Better Time Than Now is a joy from start to finish, its ever-shifting array of rhythms and melodies pleasing the music-lover, its lush sonic universe sure to delight even the most hardened audiophiles. 


Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Summer Sessions: Bass

Regular readers will know that White Noise is primarily interested in house and techno, considering that today's 'bass music' scene rubs shoulders all-too-often with pop's most derivative iterations, yet the scene does not deserve to be written off altogether. This playlist serves up some of the genre's finest summer tunes, the funkier the better. Along the way, a few reminders that the likes of Disclosure and George Fitzgerald once deserved rather more underground cred than they do today. Enjoy!

Make sure to check out all of our summer playlist series, and to follow White Noise on Facebook and Twitter!

Summer Sessions:
Star Slinger - Mornin'
Pomrad - Pomslap
Bondax - Baby I Got That
Girl Unit - Ensemble (Club Mix)
Bwana - Baby Let Me Finish
Groove Theory - Tell Me (George Fitzgerald Remix)
Jacques Greene - Another Girl
SBTRKT - Pharaohs
Arkist - Fill Your Coffee
Disclosure - I Love ... That You Know
Jamie xx - Far Nearer
Hackman - Forgotten Notes
Sophie - Bipp
Coki - Ruff Lovin'

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, 23 August 2013

South London Ordnance - He Do The Police In Different Voices

Label: Aery Metals

South London Ordnance has made a name for himself off the back of a series of impressive genre hybrids, infusing techno structures with bustling accents of the UK tradition; from the warm chords in the staccato Roofy to the roiling energy of Trojan’s sweeping bassline and distorted vocals. Now SLO opens the doors of his own Aery Metals imprint with his most substantial offering to date; three original tracks, two collaborations and three remixes brought together in a big Eliot-referencing package. Yet perhaps because of its maximalist intentions, He Do The Police In Different Voices is not quite the breakthrough release one might have hoped.


Any artist would be hard-pressed to fill an EP with eight tracks of consistent quality, and this is exactly where SLO’s latest suffers, with the collaborations and canny choices of remixers impressing more than the original cuts ever do. The collabs are indeed the record’s high point, with Brolin’s vocal turn on opener Black Acre adding a soulful dimension to a melancholic mood piece crafted with skittering percussion and sonorous synthwork. Yet on his own, SLO is less successful; his three original productions all suffer from the dual problems of formula and length. Floating World, System and digital exclusive Modular Splash are all competent techno burners, yet none of them offer anything out of the ordinary, while each 8-9 minute runtime doesn’t seem earned considering the lack of structural progression on the tracks. The only original production to rival Black Acre is Obsidian, a collaboration with Finland’s Femme En Fourrure, a stronger piece with a clear sense of direction and momentum, building up a strong groove over growling low-end and twitching, technicolour synthlines.

Black Acre (Chris Carter Remix)

While the choices of remixers are rather inspired, the end results are, once more, a mixed bag. First up Factory Floor’s Nik Colk Void turns in a whirring rework of Modular Splash in an ultra-minimal turn sure to divide opinions. Optimo’s JD Twitch hits a home run with his remix of the same track, distending the original’s bassline into a queasy, powerful groove under a bed of quavering, chopped-up vox. The piece also shows what SLO’s productions lack in structure, justifying its 8-minute runtime with a clear series of sonic shifts, as the track turns into a free-form construction of distorted vocals and seething synths over its final minutes. Finally Throbbing Gristle’s Chris Carter inverts Black Acre into a grumbling noise odyssey which oozes menace, as the original’s refrain moves in and out of focus in a nervy, unsettling soundfield. It feels a shame that, given the quality of some of these reworks and collaborations, the original cuts are adequate yet never extraordinary. The result is that on his label’s debut release, South London Ordnance has been somewhat outshone.


Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Visionist - Snakes

Label: Leisure System

All hail the 4/4, the age of house and techno is upon us. Dubstep and garage have long lost their mojo, juke is too leftfield and ‘bass music’ has sold its soul to the pop machine. Excuse the hyperbole, but however irritatingly trendy house might be at the moment, its hard to argue with the fact that much of today’s most interesting dance music is anchored by a predictable kick drum. Yet as a nation who has always pushed dance music forward, this poses a problem: the UK has relatively little traction in the domains of house and techno. We can make it, we can even shift it up a notch, but genres like garage, grime and dubstep have British DNA flowing through their melodic veins, and a definitive UK sound is missing from today’s underground.

Enter Blackdown and Dusk’s reliable Keysound imprint alongside a slew of fresh producers who are bringing grime into this decade. After a few years in exile, consigned to the twin hells of commercialisation and creative stagnancy, the genre now seems poised to make an impressive comeback – just look at Keysound’s This Is How We Roll compilation for an anatomy of some of the most exhilarating, unpredictable dance music around. Riding the crest of this wave is London’s Visionist, who over the last year has risen from cookiecutter Swamp81 pretender to a genuine threat to your sanity, his ambition climactically validated in a stunning Rinse mix comprised entirely of his own tracks.


Now Visionist takes to Berlin’s Leisure System imprint with some of his best material to date, showing a playful, experimental streak writ large over three seductively off-kilter grime explorations. The EP is certainly a case of variations on a theme, but each effort is so beguilingly unpredictable that no one would criticise for a lack of variety. The grime nods are all over Snakes with its tough kicks and cocked-gun percussion, but Visionist quickly moves away from familiar territory when a seasick vocal and hi-def chimes turn the track into a woozy, unstable trip. Snakebite takes the percussive abstraction a step further, as a disorientating swirl of shots, clicks and colourful 8bit streaks are painted like treacle over a bed of softened bass hits.

Visionist ends the triptych with the most seductive number of the three, the Zomby-esque Poison, where the psychedelic blur of percussion plays second fiddle to a hypnotic system of crystalline synthlines and ghostly chipmunk vocals. While all three tracks approach the same sounds from a different angle, in his finest release to date Visionist has crafted something dangerously vital; a package of slippery future-grime just as likely to disorientate as it is to intoxicate.


Labels: , ,