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White Noise: April 2015

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Raw M.T. - La Duna

Label: Lobster Theremin
The 2013 debut EP of Italian producer Raw M.T. on Wicked Bass really blew us away, and the potency of Walkman Is Dead has only strengthened in the two-year radio silence that ensued. On his return, here on the UK’s on-point Lobster Theremin imprint, M.T. is back guns blazing, peddling his sly rhythms in a diverse and compelling three-tracker.

Each of these tracks brings a distinct flavour to the table, like an action movie dream-team. Title track La Duna is a patient deep house number, the starkness of Walkman Is Dead replaced by airy synthwork that shifts and parts like clouds. Yet the focus is still unashamedly on rhythm, the drum section fluid and intricate, a perfect eyes-down groover. Untitled is the main course, an exotic roller that would sit right at home on the Workshop catalogue. Here a chunky beat pattern and bird calls build to a fizzing bassline and a celestial synth hum, all topped off by an ethereal, garbled vocal in who knows what language, easily making for one of the year’s finest tracks to date.

Til this point we’ve seen heard little of the darkness of Raw M.T.’s debut release, but he lets the night loose on claustrophobic closer Strike. There is a constant pressure to his rhythms, muffled Shed-like kicks and knotty percussion barely contained by corrosive, acid-hungry synths. La Duna is a supremely assured sophomore release, as Raw M.T. stretches in three directions at once and nails each one. With another release lined up soon on Wicked Bass, it’s clear that M.T. is still a voice to be very excited about.


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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Levon Vincent - Levon Vincent

Label: Novel Sound

Few artists in the dance game command as much respect and loyalty as Levon Vincent, who has been blowing ‘floors and minds with his smart brand of techno for almost ten years. His signature sound is deliberate and dramatic dance music, warped but not distorted, patient yet often surprising. Each added layer, whether a new drum pattern or a melody, is carefully constructed for maximum effect, and increases in power with time and repetition. Like real techno should.

While he may be one of the genre’s legitimate monarchs, Vincent faced the same problems as all techno producers do on the production of a long-player. Put simply, peak-time techno loses its impact over the course of an hour, especially outside of the club. To navigate this potential pitfall, Vincent has pulled off a more radical transformation than we might have expected. Gone are the drums that made his name, at least in part, as this LP is overflowing with bright melodies and playful experimentation.

It’s a bold move, but bold is what we’ve come to expect from a man who puts up two fingers to the music industry by suddenly releasing his debut LP for free over the internet (and rather subtly includes a track titled Anti-Corporate Music.) For the most part Vincent pulls off the shift with flair.

Launch Ramp To Tha Sky

First two cuts The Beginning and Phantom Power hark back to the 80s with their billowing synthwork, his trademark huge drums reduced to little more than a metronome. At the end of The Beginning the melody becomes untethered, as Vincent noodles winningly on the keys. It’s a sign of the gold to come on album highlight Launch Ramp To Tha Sky, which builds over a spacious arrangement of tribal chimes before disappearing for the last four minutes into a glorious freestyle jam. You can just imagine Vincent bending over his hardware turning knobs and fingering keys, and it’s a moment of real personality and warmth. More than ever we hear an emotional honesty in Vincent’s music, which even lets him get away with the introduction of a grand piano and choir in the track’s final moments.

This new sound is a delight, exploratory in its nature and brimming with character and soul, from the unlikely touchstones of Steve Reich or Oneohtrix Point Never on For Mona, My Beloved Cat. Rest in Peace to the gorgeous melodies of Black Arm W/ Wolf which shift over a supple rhythm section.

In fact, these melodic ventures are so compelling that it almost feels a shame when Vincent comes back to his old self for the last few tracks (as well as the gritty warehouse juggernaut Junkies On Hermann Strasse). That’s not to say these aren’t good tracks: Anti-Corporate Music is vintage Levon, with its militaristic stomp, chimes and washes of coruscating sound, while final cut Woman Is An Angel lets loose a wicked serrated bassline. These tracks are subtle, propulsive and gorgeously textured, but given how far outside his comfort zone Vincent seems willing to reach, you almost don’t want to come back home. And while these are good dancefloor tracks, they lack the immediate presence of Man or Mistress or ???.  

The advantage of this blend of old and new is that there’s something to please all comers: those looking for a few dancefloor monsters or others wanting something new from one of contemporary dance’s great talents. But both camps will probably end up feeling not as satisfied as they might if he had gone all the way in either direction. It’s a generous, varied package, and the quality of the music more than earns the LP a place in Vincent’s hallowed canon. But we’ll sure be hoping to hear more of this new adventurous side in material to come. That or a return to the prime-time Levon bangers that have still never left our crate.


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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Palms Trax - In Gold

Label: Dekmantel

There’s some kind of alchemy at play in the music of Palms Trax, aka Berlin-based Jay Donaldson. The ingredients seem simple: a hefty arsenal of textured percussion coupled with a slightly unhealthy love of full-on, Nu-Groove referencing melody. You can hear similar elements in the tracks of any number of contemporary house producers. Yet something about each of Donaldson’s emissions just feels a cut above, like all the other house producers plumbing this vein are doing it ever so slightly wrong.

To follow up from 2013’s world-beating Equation EP, whose title track was our favourite tune of that year, is no easy task. Yet on last year’s Forever white-label we saw that Palms Trax has a lot left to give, and now with his return on Dekmantel, it seems he can somehow get even better. Donaldson’s approach to house is soft, gauzy, and packed with melodies that refuse to stay in the high-end, their emotive strains reaching even the rhythm section.

The mood on In Gold is euphoric but decidedly dreamy, as the title track gets underway with feathered synths and a chunky kick-snare combo. There’s always an inviting new melody around the corner, in satisfying contrast to the glut of monochromatic techno which dominates the Berlin scene. People Of Tusk treads a marginally darker path, neon synthwork flashes past like driving through a tunnel at night, while an acid-tinged bassline keeps one foot firmly on the ‘floor. Donaldson’s ability to compel the listener with his musicality while always staying club-focused is a rare skill; many producers play with technicolour new-age synths but few produce music this propulsive.

The B-side is often where moodier, ambient cuts hide on an EP, but Sumo Acid Crew completes the hat-trick as a surprisingly energetic closer. We hear a reprise of Equation’s memorable synths, as brushed snares and a knot of intricate melodies build to glorious lift-off around the three-minute mark. The alchemy of Palms Trax’s music is not the simple transmutation of common metals, because his basic ingredients are very fine, his sounds carefully wrought. But it certainly seems the case that everything he puts out is pure gold.


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Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Paranoid London - Paranoid London

Label: Paranoid London

Shadowy London outfit Paranoid London are about as purist as it gets. The duo draw from the rawest period of acid house without ever succumbing to throwback, releasing each of their limited edition EPs on luxurious heavyweight vinyl only. Earlier this year they made one concession to the eager public: re-releasing their best cuts alongside a handful of new tracks on a fierce club-primed LP.

The formula is simple: concise hardware jams whose raucous basslines and taut drum machine rhythms embody the soul of Chicago acid as much as its sound. It features previously released gems like Paris Dub 1, featuring the earworm vocal of OG Paris Brightledge, and the superb Eating Glue, which pairs a menacing bassline and stark percussion with a moody spoken word vocal. And the originals keep up the fine form: Machines Our Coming is surprisingly colourful, a play of laser synth strokes welded to a toughened kick, while Lovin U (Ahh Shit) is a veritable anthem, where PL’s trademark acid menace and raw drums are adorned by emotive, keening synths and a diva vocal on after-hours mode.

The album is as no-nonsense as we’ve come to expect from Paranoid London. It’s physical music, no concessions to the home-listening crowd or intellectual analysis. In fact, listening to this one straight through at home might be a little tiring. But as a collection for DJs looking for a rare fresh take on the sound, or just wanting to channel acid house’s raw soul without having to fork out for twenty-year-old vinyl, it delivers nothing but fire.


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Thursday, 16 April 2015

Hodge - HEK025

Label: Hemlock

Bristol’s Hodge seems to just get better with each release. He’s already proven his diversity, deftly moving between the colourful house of Outboxx, techno meditations with Pev and his own explorations which dig into the UK bass spectrum outside the 4/4. His latest for Untold’s Hemlock imprint has a real rude flavour to it, immediately apparent on the grime-soaked strings of Blood Moon, whose constant rhythmic pressure is all swagger, indicating that Hodge may have a learnt a little from working with Pev, maestro of such knotty percussion.

I Don’t Recognise You Lately is just as fine, a bright UK Funky melody isolated from its familiar surroundings, left to play out alone in a field of chittering snares and aggressive tides of bass pressure. Recall lays out a simple synth bounce before assaulting it with an array of effects and clattering drums, while Tail Of The Snake goes tropical with buoyant chimes, animal cries and a real Afro shake to the rhythms. One of the great things about Hodge’s music is that, unlike some of his contemporaries pushing the vanguard of UK’s mutant techno scene, he’s not afraid of melodies and hooks. This makes his tracks as easy to love as they are destructive on the dancefloor. Even better, it seems with each successive EP he tries on a new style, and every outfit just fits him so damn good.


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