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White Noise: September 2015

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Various Artists - Musik For Autobahns 2

Label: Rush Hour

The art of DJing has long been a synthesis of two skills: technical expertise and curation. The arrival of digital mixing possibilities has made the former an option rather than a necessity, but the importance of sequencing, reading a crowd and picking great tunes remains the measure of a good DJ. Given all this, it’s a shame that more of the dance world’s best DJs don’t put their time into releasing compilations.

German DJ Gerd Janson has made his name largely as a record-slinger. This is an increasingly rare feat in a world whose club scene initiates are now asked to be masters of both production and selection. Not content with sharing his curatorial skills one dancefloor at a time, three years ago Janson put out his first Music For Autobahns compilation, a compelling selection of cuts that explored the melodic possibilities of the dance scene.

Now he’s returned with another collection of cuts handpicked for a house-head road trip, taking in Kraftwerk-era electronics, ambient house and even synth pop. Here we have new talents exposed and old hands trying new tricks, and a compilation unafraid to explore colour and light in a scene so often stuck in monochrome.

The collection is inspired by trips along German highways, and in true road-trip mix-tape style the LP is varied, dreamy and propulsive. Roughly half of the cuts are variations on melodic, electro-indebted house, and here the more familiar names tend to shine brightest. It’s not that their tracks are technically better, but more that a handful of these producers are more adept at eliciting emotion from the melodies they weave.

Fort Romeau’s Seleno snaps along with an Italo-disco bounce, as melancholic synths soar and ripple across the surface. Melody-maestro Orson Wells drops the 90s-indebted Orbiting Jupiters, whose cheap reed synths are eaten away by a boiling acid line, the two later entwining in a bittersweet coda. For a closer Bicep drop the LP’s best club-track, the churning Carmine, where an endlessly mutating synth line and tunnelling bass are counterpointed with a deft balance of muscle and patience.

Elsewhere similar styles are attempted ably but with a little less finesse. Conga Radio’s 168 North is an upbeat house burner combining Nugroove synth washes and chiptune melodies, while Disco Nihilist’s Melancholy is saw-toothed construction of shimmering synths and a beetling bassline that doesn’t quite conjure its titular feeling. Lauer’s Autofahrn is a moody retro cut with a Kraftwerk-esque vocoder, whose closeness to its inspiration makes it sound more parody than regeneration.

The other half of the long-player is occupied by more intriguing variations which range from good to excellent, the best being Leon Vynehall’s superb opener Midnight On Rainbow Road (his second cut referencing Nintendo). Here is a stunning slice of sound design, as a glittering motif plays out over subtle percussion and shifting ambience, evocative of rain-streaked windows at night and feelings more complex than your average musician can conjure. A rare Joy O track continues the relatively unshowy musical path he’s been walking recently in his work with Boddika, most notably TMTT. Here A213 is restrained but impressive, with fluttering synth figures occasionally brought to the boil over a woody rhythm section.

Janson includes some stranger variations which still manage to fit the aesthetic snugly, such as Orlando Voorn’s spindly Turn Left Here or Running Back alum Shan’s Awakening, who turns the mechanics of dub techno up to eleven with a huge aqueous synth bounce and a glittering lead. Perhaps most unexpected of the lot is AKSK’s Breaking (produced by the chameleonic Suzanne Kraft), a cut of retro-leaning synth pop that proves particularly catchy over repeated spins.

On any compilation you’re bound to like some tracks more than others, but Janson has done a wonderful job eking gems from talents old and new, sticking to a strong core aesthetic while providing variation and style. He makes it look easy.


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Thursday, 24 September 2015

Chaos In The CBD - Midnight In Peckham

Label: Rhythm Section

The Rhythm Section club night, a family affair run out of London’s Peckham Pool Club for the last year, has smoothly made the transition to record label over the last year. The team, helmed by rising star Bradley Zero, have been showcasing the jazzier side of London’s house scene, with notable releases from the likes of Henry Wu and Canada’s Local Artist. Their latest is one of the most chilled and mature yet, courtesy of Kiwi brothers Chaos In The CBD.

The pair have nimbly genre-hopped over EPs for the likes of ClekClekBoom, Hot Haus and Amadeus, and here they showcase a particularly laid-back strain of house, focusing on acoustic instruments and tasteful composition. It makes for a stylish, super-smooth listen, but the lack of variation in style means that some cuts shine brighter than others.

Observe is one of the best, an upbeat piano line clipping over a swaying, NuGroove synth line and bristling percussion. Later title cut Midnight In Peckham lets a sax drift lazily over feathery keys and twinkling synths, the soundtrack to a Film Noir coda where the detective and femme fatale drive off into a monochrome sunset.

Elsewhere the duo continue to mine the same jazzy strand of house, with Trust Is Key’s gentle melodic oscillations and the languid brass of Luxury Motivation, but the sonic homogeneity across the release means there’s little reason to play these ones out over the EP’s catchier siblings.

The kick drum has been relegated to a pulse across the four main tracks, but Chaos In The CBD join forces with club-jazz experimentalists Archie Pelago for a stomping final cut, its boom-bap beat unhurried but certainly adding a pinch of muscle to the delicate arrangement. As a whole the Midnight In Peckham EP doesn’t offer much in the way of variation, but if you dig house at its smoothest and most tasteful, there’s plenty of accomplished grooves on offer.


Read this review in context at Inverted Audio.

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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Guest Mix

Fresh guest mix from WN resident Moth, here serving up a whole party in 90 minutes, from sultry summer slow jams to raucous rave and techno via footwork, salsa and acid. So many of our favourites in here we've lost count.

Exclusively on White Noise, here's the tracklist:

Linkwood Family – Miles Away
Pender Street Steppers – The Glass City
Ishmael – Time & Time Again
Hidden Spheres – Waiting
Mosey – Tuff Times
D-Ribeiro – Down You Will Get
Cool Peepl – Free
Damiano von Erckert – We Flow 
Harvey Sutherland – Bermuda
Matthew Herbert – Earthenware
Obas Nenor – Change Got To Come
La Pesada – Cumbia y Tambo (En La Lluvia)
Paradise’s Deep Groove – I Love
Adesse Versions – Pride
Todd Terry – Bounce To The Beat
TXC – Dream Is Alive
Luca Lozano & DJ Fett Burger – Telegronn
Luca Lozano & Mr. Ho – Dripbox
Henrik Bergqvist – Caballo Blanco
Paxton Fettel – Lift Off
Foreign – B1
Paranoid London – Lovin U (Ahh Shit)
AFX – VBS.Redlof.B
Jessy Lanza, DJ Spinn & Taso – You Never Show Your Love

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Thursday, 17 September 2015

DJ Richard - Grind

Label: Dial

Much great art comes from conflict. Whether it be a corrosive relationship, sudden loss or psychological crisis, tough times push us to emotional extremes that seem to result in a striking artistic clarity and power. The driving force behind DJ Richard’s debut LP seems to be displacement, a move from the States to Berlin and the loss of a familiar natural landscape.

Far from his native ocean, the White Material co-founder populates his album with titles evoking the rock formations, fauna and natural phenomena of his native Rhode Island, yet the dark industrial sonic traits of his new home in Berlin are never far from the listener’s ear. This contrast is the power of Grind, a collection of kinetic electronica on the border between house and techno, its moods and rhythms in constant flux, the product of a mind that churns like the sea.


The level of refinement and cohesion to these tracks is perhaps not a surprise given its context – this album has been made twice. A burglary cost Richard a laptop with a near-finished version of his debut LP, and so he was made to rebuild, using almost no samples in the process. This perhaps explains why Grind feels so full and engaging, each track a marvel of mood and detail. 

The mood across the album is decidedly ominous and brooding, particularly on the heavy, contemplative ambient interludes No Balance and Ejected, yawning abysses poised to swallow the listener whole. Yet outside of this foundation many other emotions take hold. On Nighthawk a delicate two-note tweet may be subdued but still feels optimistic against a rhythm that sounds like the cracking of a great insect’s exoskeleton. Following is Waiting For The Green Flash, the first in a pair of references to rare optical phenomena, which glitters menacingly, its intentions shrouded in mist.


The album then enters a run of accomplished and otherworldly dance tracks, kicking off with the tumbling arpeggios of Savage Coast and the soaring harmonies of Screes Of Grey Craig. The brightness that lights the corners of these tracks comes to the fore on surprising highlight Bane, where a burbling melody skids joyously over a splintered drum pattern, occasionally rising to the boil and cascading all around. The album’s deep centrepiece is I-Mir, as patient as Bane is effervescent, largely composed of a raw tunnelling bassline, a stammering kick and a swelling ambient wash like a ghostly choir roiled by the waves. Four minutes in enter a set of clattering metallic snares, marching forward with martial precision and threat.

While DJ Richard’s previous EPs showed music more sophisticated than typical club music, they were calibrated for dancing, and Grind is a departure from that. DJs will find some great club tracks if they choose to skim it for parts, but that would be to miss the holistic effect of the album. This is narrative techno, and in typical artistic form, the narrative of conflict draws us inexorably towards reconciliation. This is heard on Vampire Dub, a confection of twinkling synth work, gauzy keys that leave behind calming jet-trails, and bubbling mechanical accents. Here the feelings of displacement are left behind, resolution can be found in a composition which is nakedly beautiful. This is the deserved conclusion to a great artistic accomplishment; a dance album with no fat, no misfires, every tune essential, surprising and rewarding. We hear darkness and conflict resolved through artistic expression, and we find peace.

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Monday, 14 September 2015

Aurora Halal - Shapeshifter

Label: Mutual Dreaming

Aurora Halal has been expertly curating Brooklyn’s Mutual Dreaming party since 2011, hosting the crème of modern electro, techno and house DJs, but it was only last year that she began to release her own music. On her debut Passageway EP was a producer fully formed, offering gritty rhythms packed with drama, synthesising techno’s new and old schools into a consuming vision.

Now for her second solo outing Halal has shifted style, swapping grimy distortion for a polished sheen. Here she sketches svelte figures that recall Detroit’s star-gazing techno legacy, which accentuates her talent for dreamy, hypnotic melodies. Opener Shapeshifter goes down smooth, its twinkling melodies skirting a swift electro pulse, while Sunlight stalks over mesmeric keys and a diving bass hit, oozing Bladerunner drama.

Sleep Distortion lives up to its name, a slackened pace drawing attention to the gently shifting bass patterns which conjure a delicious broken groove, drawing us into the melancholy harmonies of highlight Just Tell Me. The only misstep is second cut Death of Real, whose burbling acid line seems strangely buried, its stripped woodblock rhythm not given the heft to really hit home. The added Version of Death of Real gives some much needed juice to the drums but somewhat loses the ebb and flow of the original’s melody.

That Halal would attempt a sharp stylistic change after only one EP is a credit to her production talent, a true shapeshifter. What’s more the decision to downplay the rhythms works wholly to her advantage, allowing both the percussive subtleties of her arrangements and the dreamy melodies she weaves to shine bright and clear.


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Thursday, 10 September 2015

Bell Towers - Hyper - Realised - Self

Label: Public Possession

Melbourne’s Bell Towers is not a producer who would ever be accused of taking himself too seriously. Across a trio of 2014 releases on Berlin’s dangerously on-point Public Possession imprint, BT issued icy, retro-leaning house cuts and Italo edits heavy on the flamboyant synthwork. Whether his music is focused on the club or soaring with the vocal harmonies of yesterday’s tomorrow, there’s always a sense of fun front and centre.

His first 2015 outing, back on Public Possession, is no different. The A side’s title promises a cheery ride, satirising the language of the 80’s bionic dreams, and the music more than matches the promise. Hyper – Realised – Self is one of BT’s strongest straight house cuts to date, juggling colourful melodies and odd, playful effects anchored to a sharp, clean exo-rhythm. The track blossoms gracefully over mutating acid sweeps and dramatic chord swells, leaving us with a robotic vocal coda which would seem tongue-in-cheek if Bell Towers’ scifi colours weren’t quite so inviting.

The grandiosely titled B-side, Jumpin’ Off Into A Sea Of Your Love, can’t quite match the flip for energy, but it again show BT on fine melodic form, as twinkling chimes come centre-stage over a taut electro rhythm, flexing out the big-room sentiment that vintage scifi seems to capture so well. Everything is offered generously on Bell Towers’ latest 12”, big grooves and big feels, another stepping stone on his increasingly assured galactic voyage.


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Sunday, 6 September 2015

PLO Man - Stations Of The Elevated

Label: Acting Press

While it hailed rave reviews and steep discogs prices, the first release on Berlin’s freshly-minted Acting Press label was not to everyone’s tastes. That 12”, courtesy of a collective known as CC Not, toyed with what we expect from dance music yet for us seemed as difficult and cerebral, a demanding proposition from the EP format.

One of CC Not’s constituents, PLO Man, has stepped out solo for the label’s second offering, and the music is far more inviting. Stations Of The Elevated doesn’t break any stark new ground: it quite closely references a quasi-spiritual period of early 90s house, dealing in meditative home trips composed of breakbeats and pads that stretch on for days.

Rare Plastic

While PLO Man’s core sounds may not be daring in their nature, here they are elegantly assembled and draw the listener in through structure as much as texture. First cut Rare Plastic throws its danciest shapes early on, as a catchy synth line entwines with wheeling breaks, but then as the energy dies down we the track’s only half done, giving onto a hypnotic four minutes trading rough-edged drums with icy ambience.

Nearly Invisible takes root with a soft test-tone, like a gentle alarm that proceeds to bind seven minutes of whirring ambience and woody rhythms. It’s an appealing slice of sound design but it’s thirteen-minute closer Type Damascus that proves the release’s most hypnotic work. Here is a real sound voyage, aqueous pads sifting like clouds over a gloriously slow build of dusted breaks, metallic clanks and swandiving sub-bass rattles. It ends, again, with three minutes of glassy ambience so entrancing that you’ll wait for it to completely fade away before you flip the record over to start again.


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