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White Noise: March 2015

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Cassius Select - Crook

Label: Unknown To The Unknown

DJ Haus’ stable of warped, rugged dance music UTTU has a steady hit rate, but they’ve put out so much material recently that it’s been hard to keep track. What is undeniable is the main man’s ability to pick out new talent, here confirmed with the arrival of the impressive Crook EP from Cassius Select, a producer with only a smattering of releases to his name (including a tight split EP with Tuff Sherm).

While UTTU’s early concern with bassline business has given way to a more house-centric approach, the label has never totally departed from the UK bass spectrum, and Crook casts a fresh glance at bass' hardcore origins. Cassius Select references UK dance history in style and mood more than sound – pirate radio and bleary car park raves are welded to this music’s DNA.

Crook doesn’t mess about. All the tracks are under four minutes, their sampled drums and vocals cut up and brutalised largely beyond recognition. This music is inherently mangled, which makes its jagged grooves all the more delicious. Cross Strut starts as a mission statement, a sugary vocal setting the scene before the carpet is pulled out from under us, as the track abruptly gives way to a storming kick and razor snares, a juggled one-two punch vocal deadpanning ‘suck me’ and ‘you suck now' with tongue firmly in cheek.

These tunes sound like they’re crafted from asorted sonic detritus but they don’t skimp on the muscle, while melody is used sparingly but effectively. CROOK is a dark roller, shattering kicks and canned rhythms loosely adorned by clipped vox and brief flashes of filtered synthwork. On the flip Joy Mile’s insistent bass resonance harks openly back to early dubstep, but its still unashamedly weird, its angular rhythms lit only by an incongruous crystalline bell.

Final cut He Ain’t Worth is even more menacing, its paranoid urban opening referencing Grime’s new wave but its surgical beatwork is all jungle sans breaks. The drums roil under a tornado of chopped vocals, a work of collage which is particularly impressive when one considers the artistic process, arranging these tiny sonic clips into an arrangement that coheres with such explosive energy. The Crook EP takes no prisoners, and it’s all the better for it. This music is rough, inventive, and black as pitch.


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Monday, 30 March 2015

Roundup March 2015

Here are our favourite tunes from March (and a few we missed from earlier in the year), ranging from future funk sounds to ambient meditations via fathomless house, choppy analog numbers and some of the rough stuff.


D.K. - Licence To Dream
Soichi Terada - Saturday Love Sunday
Palmbomen II - Mary Louise Lefante
Raw M.T. - Untitled
Fit Siegel - Carmine
So Inagawa - Reminder
Entro Senestre - Rosegold
Chateau Flight - Rise & Fall of Babylon
Roman Flügel - Black Towers
Fort Romeau - All I Want
Chambray - Anew
Florian Kupfer - Discotag
Cassius Select - Crook
DjRum - Plantain
The Horn - Villager

And the inevitable couple we couldn't find on Youtube:

If you dig any of these tunes, we highly recommend you check out their accompanying album / EPs. Enjoy!

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Friday, 27 March 2015

Romare - Projections

Label: Ninja Tune

What do we tend to expect from a debut electronic LP? With a few solid EPs under his or her belt, most producers head in one of two directions for their first album: they refine their existing sound or they go for something completely different. British producer Romare chooses the former approach to follow two sterling EPs on Black Acre which proved challenging while overflowing with groove and invention.

On Projections, he burnishes his sample collages to a sheen, casting a sharp eye at the history of American music by recomposing its features. It’s a warm, generous collection of tracks, overflowing with the spirit of funk, soul and jazz, shot through with an eye-popping cast of samples. And yet, after it’s all over, it feels like there’s something missing. Romare’s first EPs were so creative, so searching in theme, sound and style, that hearing him do more of what he does best is a disappointment in a way. The novelty of his approach has worn off as his craft has improved, so what we’re left with is an album that impresses and caresses, but doesn’t quite excite.
Yet that very mastery of craft is still something to behold. Romare has a way in particular with structure, eliciting drama in his tracks by leaving tracks up to past the halfway point before they gloriously erupt, such as Work Song’s explosion from soupy synthwork to a swung groove and clipped piano samples like excerpts from a lost saloon jam. Motherless Child at first doesn’t convince with a lounge-y melody that sounds like it belongs on the shopping channel, but the seedy trumpet that dominates the track’s latter half is a joyous reward, as Romare boldly changes the spirit of the original.

As well as his fine attention to build and release, Romare’s use of samples is generous and far-reaching, such as on highlight Roots, where a bassline like a distilment of his earlier Down The Line (It Takes A Number) builds with patience, slowly accruing dusty samples til one can only marvel at the complexity of the arrangement, at how every tiny sample plays such an integral part of the whole.

Later The Drifter enchants instantly with its strutting bassline, while Rainbow is a confident dancefloor number, all smooth guitar licks and a lush funk bassline. It’s euphoric without ever beating you over the head with its emotional direction. Yet by this point in the album, perhaps some head-beating would be appreciated. These tracks are so classy and polished that over repeated listens they feel somewhat lacking in grit, even unadventurous compared with his earlier work.

Later tracks suffer from the success of what came before, Prison Blues is a syrup-thick jazzy number that has personality but loses its impact because it feels like we’ve heard it before, while meandering closer La Petite Mort’s slow-mo jazz keys and tidy vocal feel directionless over the track’s indulgent 7 minute length. When Romare can craft a superb tune like the melancholy Jimmy’s Lament in only three minutes, we’re left to wonder why he dedicated so much time to such an aimless parting shot.

Projections is tough to judge because what you get out of it as a listener really depends on what you were expecting (although admittedly all music is prey to the warping powers of expectation). If you’re looking for something bold and fresh in this spirit of Romare’s first EPs, it might be worth skipping over this one. Yet if you loved that first sound and want to hear more like it, Projections is a lovely gem, seducing with a distinctive voice and lavish arrangements.


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Monday, 23 March 2015

Route 8 - This Raw Feeling

Label: Lobster Theremin

With EPs out on Nous and Lobster Theremin, two of Europe’s most exciting new imprints, Hungarian producer Route 8’s dreamy house meditations have us rapt. To date his work has been captivating due to its contrast of soft and rough textures, particularly in the percussion, and the unashamedly emotive melodies and ambient washes that set everything in a deep haze. For his latest return to the Lobster he puts out some of his most subdued material to date, and it happens to also be some of his best.

Opener The Sunrise In Her Eyes is a particularly wistful, melancholic cut, where a soft grey wash drifts over a subtle groove, later joined by a pulse-quickening snare and gentle, optimistic keys that shine through the mist of the track’s second half. It’s a stunning tune, teased out with patience, its atmosphere caressing the ears like a gentle tide. Next up is the tougher title track which sets those same delicate atmospherics over a more muscular rhythm section, a bright synth melody cascading over the propulsive drums. It’s a perfect embodiment of Route 8’s mastery over his sound, seamlessly incorporating soaring Detroit techno drama into his deep house template.

The B-side continues apace, with It Doesn’t Matter Anymore bringing a taut electro snap and Ash Dub a rattling array of shifting percussion. These tracks don’t quite have the explosive impact of the record’s A-side but all four cuts highlight the contrast between tender melodies, full of longing and regret, and taut drum patterns that tug the arrangements inexorably forwards. It’s a superb package, the best in Route 8’s already impressive discography, and sits alongside debuts from Daze and Palms Trax as one of Lobster Theremin’s very best releases.


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Friday, 20 March 2015

Asusu - Serra

Label: Impasse

The Livity Sound trio has spent a few years at the absolute pinnacle of forward-thinking UK dance music entirely thanks to its three impressive founders. Their sounds are distinct yet unified: Pev a shapeshifter who works percussion like no other, Kowton a maestro of brutal grime-flecked techno. The third member, Asusu, is a little harder to categorise. This is partly because he’s released a lot less material, but also because his musical traits are somewhat subtler. There’s a patience to his sound, even on the most floor-focused material, a stark quality of a man who precision-hones the perfect loops and lets them roll out. This hypnotic quality is accentuated by Asusu’s remarkable attention to detail in his atmospheres. The closer you listen, the more his tracks have to give.
Now Asusu, aka Craig Stennet, steps away from Livity for the first time since he made his name, inaugurating his own Impasse imprint with a rewarding EP. Serra divides the two key aspects of his sound right down the middle, offering a title track that’s the most propulsive he’s made to date next to three impeccably detailed ambient cuts.

Serra is a writhing, flexing slice of techno, its circular rhythms drawn in strict monochrome, with a bold breakdown purpose-built for club drama. Yet even in his most functional work Asusu’s care for finesse is apparent: a track which consists solely of percussion can only work when those sounds are this textured: you can hear wood, metal and rubber, their timbres echoing as a taut, bewitching whole. 

Some may sigh at the prospect of a predominantly techno producer filling an EP with one club track and three ambient offerings, but, unsurprisingly, Asusu is more than up to the task. He achieves the tricky goal of injecting movement and drama into ambient music, as Anglo Skin glistens with misty synth work and crystalline water drops. Angular chords intrude rather than washing in and out, here and on Arrythmia, where they’re laid over insectoid chittering. There’s a suddenness to the compositions that draws comparison to recent Oneohtrix Point Never productions. The EP closes with Low Art, which occupies a similarly shadowy halflight, sketching metallic figures and resonant bass with confidence and a respect for negative space. On Serra Asusu proves himself well beyond the bound of the Livity Trio, a singular producer who seems to care as deeply about the tiny blips as he does the storming kicks.


Read this review in context at Inverted Audio.

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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

I.A. Bericochea - Wake Up

Label: Idle Hands

Spanish producer I.A. Bericochea’s release catalogue reads a little like his music sounds: understated, patient and classy. With five dance releases to his name over the last thirteen years, the earliest on Richie Hawtin’s M_nus label (when that was still a good thing, in 2003), these tracks have had a long gestation period, and you can hear it.

Wake Up deals in quiet, hypnotic deep house, and the execution is nigh-on perfect. These are barely club tracks: the aesthetic is pure minimalism, while the odd sounds that adorn the beats – a scratching pen, dripping water, a lazy guitar melody – wouldn’t be found on many dancefloors. The material here is more concerned with atmosphere, sometimes verging on the cinematic as it focuses on sustained suspense rather than anticipation and release.
W1 is the first delicate construction, where a subtly shifting bed of percussion is counterbalanced by a queasy bassline, each receding in the mix as the other emerges. The attention to detail is exquisite, each sound richly textured, and the stark structure allows the listener to focus on each sound as it comes into play. Later W3 is similarly nervy, in its own anaesthetised fashion, as unsettled pads and an ominous guitar line hint at a threat offscreen, while the low-end is dominated by a deep bass slide.

The guitar is truly the star of this four-tracker, and this is best exhibited on Wake Up’s even-numbered cuts. W2 has a less menacing vibe, a lazy guitar melody accompanied by maracas which are drowned in reverb and then abruptly pulled back to reality. It all turns a little celestial as a soft grey wash rules the track’s latter half, but this curious heaven is all Bericochea’s own. On W4 the Latin-style strumming really comes to the fore in all its poignant fragility, joined only by a skeletal beat.

The title of this EP may be Wake Up but this music exists in a strange half-lidded world between waking and sleeping, its rhythms somnambulant, its melodies lifted from a taut dream of unclear emotional direction. It’s always impressive when music manages move the listener without gesturing to any emotion in particular. Wake Up is bewitching yet somewhat unreadable, and for that it’s beautiful. Play it while you sleep, let it seep into your dreams, and maybe everything will become clear.


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