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Originally out as a limited cassette-only release (I know, right?), Joane Skyler’s “orz” EP has made its way to a full digital & physical release via Reckno. The eight track EP is an accomplished assortment of crisp beats, undressed sound-waves and sluggish sythns all distilled into deliriously unbalanced electronica. Preview it below:

The EP opens with the howling synthetic groans of “Gemz”, rumblingly outwards to fillsome pitch-dark and cavernously large space, thus setting the tone for the next thirty minutes. From the get-go, the EP is dense, tightly-coiled and with an almost pre-historic weightiness. Having set up this atmosphere, Skyler then sets about puncturing the tar-thick tones with snappy, stuttering percussion, breaching the murk without ever breaking it. In places Skyler’s drums slip so far off meter that instead of becoming humanised they morph into something else entirely; the whirring of complex machinery or the cyclical pattern of water droplets falling from ceiling of a cave. Drum hits that might otherwise seem sharp and piercing become dulled as they bounce around the artificial spaces, and the EP soon develops this subterranean pressure, further reinforced by endlessly shuddering reverbs. In a way the EP puts me in mind of artists like Distance or Loefah, in that it has taken a lot what was conceptually and atmospherically interesting about early dub-step, but with pads providing the crushing force of the sub-bass and breakbeats disorienting us instead of half-time. And dread. Lots of it.

The Ep isn’t all gloom and doom though. Every so often delicate, harmonious flourishes will bubble up or a pad will cut through the mix like a beam light refracted through water. Brief flashes of hope that only further muddy the water when they fade. In fact, Skyler seems to posses that rare skill to these create these ambiguous, almost alien atmospheres that one might normally associate with Zomby or Actress; the music feels highly emotive, just not in a way any human intelligence would comprehend*. Lately, this style of music has become particularly exciting to me because subverts the existing norms in electronic music. The current assumption, (also a judgement espoused by skeptics and lay-people which has been used to discredit electronic music since its dawn) is that organic sounds evoke complex emotions, whereas artificial sounds do not. Should not. Cannot. Organic vocal samples, live-drum hits, reel-to-reel hiss, natural-sounding reverb- these are the tools of Gold Panda, Andy Stott and Nicholas Jarr. Auto-tune, drum-machines, quantisation- these are the tools David Guetta. One is contemplative and deep, the other fleeting and vapid. Never the twain shall meet.

Clearly this isn’t the case; just consider a Vangelis or Giorgio Moroder score, take a look at what Dark Star can do with a vocoder, or remember the OST of your most cherished childhood video games. Are we seriously to believe the theme from The Terminator would better reinforce Arnie’s menacing relentlessness if were it played with live instrumentation? Perhaps conjuring powerful emotive imagery with synthetic sounds is so hard to master many would rather dismiss it. Regardless, you can rest assured that so long as artists like Skyler continue to challenge these assumptions, this technique will not be lost.

Simultaneously, ”orz's greatest strength and weakness is its ability to create its own immersive environment. Many of the tracks seamlessly flow into one another or contain more than one traditional “song”, thus blurring the boundaries of not only their running times, but also of their moods, atmospheres and stories. Presumably, this is intended to capitalise on nature of the medium originally intended for ”orz's”release: the cassette tape. If you cast your mind back- no, further than that. Further still. You there? Right. If you cast your mind back, you'll recall that cassette tapes don’t have separate tracks and skipping between the content with any accuracy is difficult at the best of times. Hence, songs with ambiguous divisions make perfect sense (…aaand my original skepticism was a touch unjustified). This wandering arrangement serves to enhance the EP's daydream vibe and, bizarrely enough, communicate some kind of narrative arc (despite the almost total absence of lyrical content). The unfortunate flip side of this lack of strict framing is that the content can occasionally come across as either too cluttered or somewhat transient. Few of the tracks remain with you after listening and little of the EP seems to “make sense” in isolation (that being said, I keep coming back to “Dinosaur Dies Alone”, probably the most meandering and oblique track on the EP).

While “orz" doesn’t quite hold up as a collection of traditional songs, when experienced as a whole it is a unique and sublime journey to the musical boundaries of human-computer interaction. Above all else, the release is a superb listen and a bracing introduction to an intriguing new voice; I eagerly anticipate hearing more.

You can download Joane Skyler’s “orz” EP via Boomkat here or get the limited edition cassette-tape from the Reckno bandcamp page here. You should also bop over to her soundcloud and follow/comment/share and just generally show some love, ‘eres dat link.

*I’ve noticed I’ve been saying this sort of thing a lot lately, so maybe its all perfectly understandable and I’ve just developed an autistic spectrum disorder.

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Its been a month or so since I’ve heard anything that’s really jumped out at me, but when I listened to the new collab between Cooly G and Stay Positive (Christian AIDS’s new pun-loving persona*), I knew I’d be posting on it. Why? Well, in a nutshell: its a trance song.

A legit trance song.

Of course, in and of itself, making trance is neither new nor exciting- I’m sure there’s plenty of people still making trance. In Spain, probably. What makes this track interesting is that it seems to be a sincere attempt to engage with what is probably the least critically acceptable genre of dance music by “respectable” artists who might otherwise usually be classed as “high-brow”. Stay Positive is still making a name for himself, but has, for instance, garnered comparisons with New Order and A Certain Ratio by the Guardian, and Cooly G is a Hyperdub artist for chrissakes. We’re talking about the sort of label that’s not just home to critically-lauded artists like Ikonika, Laurel Halo and Zomby, but who’s founder has a Phd in Philosophy and writes books about the “sound, affect and ecology of fear”. Not to put to fine a point on it, but its a label that seems to value intellectualising dance music. So its pretty damn bizarre that we now have one of it’s main-stays coming together with a hotly-tipped up-and-comer to have a go at what has traditionally been seen as the most vacuous and empty-headed of dance genres. Its weird, I’m not sure I understand it, but it has my attention.

What of the music itself? Well, its more than just an interesting talking point- “You Hate Me" is actually a pretty solid piece of dance music. Everything rises and falls in the right places without spilling over into excess, its got a vocal that’ll worm it’s way into your subconscious and, crucially, you can actually dance to it. The trance elements aren’t just half-arsed references either- it’s not just that the lead synth/chord stab wouldn’t sound out of place in a Chicane track. Stay Positive has done his homework; the kick is just right, and for some intangible reason the processing on Cooly’s vocal simultaneously feels modern while explicitly referencing classics like "Better Off Alone" (never more so than in the speak-singing section around the 2:10 mark).

Admittedly, to call the track “trance” is oversimplifying matters. With the square-wave bassline, percussive shuffles and occasional pitched and cut vocal cropping up, you can hear a few traits and techniques bleeding in from the authors’ own catalogues. In this way, “You Hate Me" is still born from that much maligned genre, but re-contextualises it for contemporary ears. Frankly, I love it.

No doubt, some will automatically turn their noses up a release like this, but just maybe a controlled dosage of trance is the perfect cure for our collective hang-over from all that pouty Dubstep/Future Garage business. Christ, remember when Garage actually used to be fun? Back when it was all Spanish guitar and people shouting “re-e-mix”- even though you were listening to the original? Y’know, there was a time when men sang like women without having their voices pitched**.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve bought my fair share of Burial records, and I’m not advocating some sort of rose-tinted, saccharine Return-to-Oz bullshit. That’s an attitude which is not only boring, but also delusional and poisonous to progress. But, the undeniable fact of the matter is that in the intervening years, dance music (and its associated culture) has come to take itself waaay too seriously. Honestly, I can’t stomach another instalment of Boiler Room, I’m fucking tired of youtube channels like Majestic with it’s infinite look-a-likes and Depressed-DJs has warped from a funny observation into a grating reminder of an overwhelming and frankly, endemic pretentiousness…. and do you know what the worst thing is? I am entirely aware that you need only jump back a post or two on Privateer and you’ll find glaring examples of my hypocrisy***. Just… just… it just all needs to stop, y’know? What better way to inject a bit of light-heartedness back into things than bringing back the one genre that no one can ever truly take seriously?

So, yeah… Kind of went off on one there, but that’s what happens if you decide to write in the aftermath of a liquid-lunch. I guess that if theres a point to this sprawling mess, it is this: I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m fucking hyped for the trance revival.

Stay Positive & Cooly G’s “You Hate Me” is out now on Stay Positive Industries. Download it here at Boomkat.

*AIDS?… Positive?… Geddit?… Well don’t look at me like that, its not my fucking joke.

**looking at you, Bedingfield.

***in a fleeting moment of self-effacing courage, I went back to read a post or two. Thankfully I was spared when the overwhelming waves of shame-induced nausea became too much for me to go on.****

****I think these asterisks are starting to get a bit out of hand.

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Last Night in My Dreams, I Was Talking to You" is the new (and maybe first…?) release from experimental electronic-pop artist Violetness, it’s just come out via LebensStrasse Records (also home to Sun Glitters and Slow Magic) and we are absolutely bewitched by it.

The Ep consists of three tracks of grandiose synth-pop, each delicately laced with pangs of nostalgia and taught with yearning, rendered in a expertly balanced blend of synthetic and organic sounds. Throughout, it is entrancing to hear Violetness’ ability to draw focus to the moments between moments, the empty resonant spaces where apparently little is happening, but upon which everything hangs. It is her restraint and composure in these few seconds that builds the tense anticipation which underlies the emotional core of her music. Next comes the release, crashing forth with rolling drums, rising synths and distant cries. This masterful control of the rise and fall of the energy, tension and tone is both the defining characteristic of the EP and a demonstration of Violetness’ finesse as a song writer, pity there’s only three tracks. “Last Night In My Dreams…" is a real beauty, we can’t wait for more.

You can download Violetness’ “Last Night in My Dreams, I Was Talking to You” on Boomkat here.

B-B-B-BONUS ROUND.

Theres a couple of lovely short films/trailers/vignettes knocking around the web featuring Violetness’ music titled “Last Night In My Dreams…" and UKU PACHA”. Both are beautifully shot and definitely worth checking out.

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I came across Clipping late last night whilst strolling through the shady binary back-streets and artificial alleyways of soundcloud. It was dark. I was alone. Cautiously, I clicked play on the intro to “Midcity"… I was immediately assaulted by a wall of raw, visceral distorted noise followed by ferocious, lightning-fast rhyming. Adrenaline pumping, gripped by a primal terror, I knew I needed more on. I was hooked.

Its hard to know where to start with this one. This record is harsh. Just fucking unrelentingly, tinnitus inducingly harsh. This is probably what they’re rocking on Guantanamo’s prison radio. Clipping (MC/frontman Daveed Diggs with William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes on production duties) aren’t your run of the mill hip-hop group, they reside in that strange realm of experimental-noise/industrial rap thats springing up right now. However, they stand apart from their contemporaries such Death Grips or B L A C K I E through the extent of the a-musicality they dare to pursue and sheer forceful precision of their sound. This is not crunchy, lo-fi boom-bap-boom-bap stuff, but instead a full on blast from a static-storm. Have a listen to “guns.up”, you’ll see what we mean- they’re not playing around.

Whereas other artists in this vein have subverted their root genre by filtering it through bit-crushers and distortion, Clipping seem to be intent on disposing with this pretense altogether. Their sound is Noise-music as Hip-Hop, not experimentations in Noise by Hip-Hop artists. This may seem like nit-picking, but this subtle distinction underlies Clipping’s power and is the bedrock of their production. Take the hi-fidelity static thunderclaps and screeching nails-down-the-chalkboard of “Loud”, they are tuned just-so to achieve maximum effect- only then are they reinterpreted into a beat. Most artists would have it vice-versa, grab some 808 hits and a bunch of samples and then go about turning them into a Noise-style beat. Its like having a machine custom built for its purposes as opposed to cobbling it together from existing components. In fact some of these sounds are so acutely engineered that I wouldn’t be surprised if they literally do build their own synths and whatnot.

Although you’d think it hard to raise the tension of these apocalyptic beats, Diggs’ flow only serves to heighten the intensity and anxiety that runs through “Midcity”. He does this by delivering his cadenced verses at break-neck speed, rarely deviating or pausing to release the pressure, but always on-measure nevertheless. This is particularly impressive when you consider that the beats are often so minimal that Diggs has little to place the foundations of his flow in. In response, Diggs seems to compensate by amplifying his vocal dynamism and dexterity until he becomes his own rhythm section. 

My sole reservation here is that, while I try to steer clear of overly negative or antagonistic Hip-Hop (purely a subjective preference), Diggs’ rhymes are often just as ugly as the music. But, perhaps this is par for the course… I guess its hard to stay on a positive tip when you’re backed by beats like these. In short; “Midcity" is a tough one, but if you’re in the mood for some heavy-duty-blow-out-your-ears-noise-ordinance, then Clipping are your guys.

Check out the album in full below.

You can get Clipping’s “Midcity” now on Bandcamp here, if you dare…

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"Rooftop/I Want To Be Alone" is the latest release from Sleep ∞ Over (A.k.a Stefanie Franciotti), it dropped a week or so ago via LA label, Hippos In Tanks and its really something to behold.

The A-side begins with blinking, arpeggiated chimes, setting the scene for Franciotti’s dread-inducing lullaby. The track soon fills out with battered brass instruments delivering wandering jazz-fills before groaning and squealing off into the middle distance. Although the expert use of found-sounds and the bizarre, ramshackle instrumentation on “Rooftop" are alone enough to make it a standout, it is Franciotti’s breathless, drowsy vocals that heighten the song’s drama to its harrowing levels. Listening to "Rooftop" feels like watching a dusty, abandoned music-box ballerina crank into action one last time.

On the flip side Franciotti covers Vashti Bunyan’s baroque-pop number “I Want To Be Alone”. While the cover pays tribute to the original’s far-out freakbeat atmosphere by maintaining its percussive style and rhythmic structure, the melancholy vibes are amplified tenfold. Bunyan’s folk instrumentation is swapped out in favour of swirling keys sailing synths- the brass also returns here, albeit fuller and more assured. Combined, these sounds put us in mind of the more wistful moments of Beach Boy’s “Pet Sounds”. The entire release is absolutely fantastic and we suggest you get your hands on a copy A.S.A.F.P.

You can download Sleep ∞ Over’s “Rooftop/I Want to be Alone” at Boomkat here and while you’re at it, why not check out her soundcloud too.