Reviews

Syro

I have been an Aphex Twin fan for fifteen years. I was fifteen when I first heard ‘Come to Daddy,’ and it was my gateway drug into electronic music. It was him that inspired me to dive into the world that I now immerse myself in everyday as a composer and as a listener. His work has played a vital role in my musical education and formation.

I attended the preview Syro album listening event at Verboten in NYC Saturday afternoon and these are my thoughts.

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Jungle

It’s easy to get excited about a band like Jungle. Their sound is unlike anything else available at the moment, and that’s not to say it doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard before. Their combination of tones and rhythms, though, makes this album an unusual auditory experience, and that’s something I can respect. It’s the funk and soul of our parents time, with their darkened chord progressions and soaring psychedelic vocals initiating their sound into the 21st century. At their core, they’re a collective, a troupe of funkadelic comrades led by members J & T, united by their groovy soundscapes. Continue Reading

It’s a bold move to release an album that was self-described as “cold, bleak, glacial” just after the summer solstice, but it appears as though Anticon co-founder Alias has done just that. Three years post-Fever Dream has put Alias in an almost inescapably frigid place, sonically. His new album Pitch Black Prism is unrelentingly ominous, its barren urgency takes shape in sharp, crystalline form. Truly a metaphorically glacial album – iced, structured, oddly beautiful, and with much to be seen under the surface. If you’re a Boards of Canada / Aphex Twin fan… you’re probably gonna like this one.

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Always Never label head Le Castle Vania is firing up the label (cheesy pun well intended) with his latest EP, Feels Like Fire. In it, Le Castle Vania continues to explore re-evaluations of his old records, as well as showing off more collaborations and vocalists from artists we’ve seen him work with in the past. It’s clear Le Castle Vania puts a lot of time into his tracks… the finesse in his technique is noticeable with the structure and engineering of every track on the release. The EP is noticeably less dark and aggressive than his previous work on mau5trap, the signature is all still there but Feels Like Fire makes more of an adult, emotional statement.

The EP begins with “Nobody Gets Out Alive Part II” – where Le Castle Vania revisits one of his older hits (previously with “Through A Keyhold Part II”). New synths, melodies and breakdowns on the track see Part II with an even clearer focus and an amplification of energy and aesthetic. “Come Together” is the second track and lead single for the EP, instantly enticing you with a haunting yet simple synth line. The track then tunnels into a high-speed adventure with a jumpy and pitched drop. At this point in the EP (and in general) it’s quite clear that Le Castle Vania sonically lives in a super-future universe, it’s TRON with all of the bad-assery and none of the cheese. The third track, “Moving In Time” sees Le Castle Vania collaborating with longtime friend and fellow producer MUST DIE – it’s a thrill ride of saw synths and gut punches colorfully strung along by hollowed piano melodies. Then we see another friend and fellow Always Never associate Crywolf on “Part Of Me” – Crywolf making a prominent appearance here with his signature and poignant piano work. The closer track, “Driving Away” is very appropriately titled, as the mood of the track fits perfectly with the movie Drive‘s theme.

All in all, Le Castle Vania continues to show he has not strayed far from his original sound, but instead progressed to his best form yet within it. These are pieces of work that are intricately and carefully made – every sound and layer tweaked and adjusted to peak form. He’s a master of his craft – and it’s nice to see an artist dust off a major track from their catalog and shed the dead weight off it and polish it to a nice sheen.

BUY THE EP HERE

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While Amtrac tends to find himself on remix duty for most of the year, it goes without saying that he also sneaks in a couple original tracks all his own. His forthcoming release is a two piece EP on the esteemed Armada imprint. Possibly his best work to date, he’s really falling into his own and it’s quite a pleasure to hear him hone his craft. Locked in grooves complimented with some ace sound design make this an extremely well polished package that drops on June 2nd. For those heading out to Palm Springs for Splash House, be on the look out for Amtrac’s poolside set.

Last week I caught up with Different Sleep, a Chicago-based producer who first came on my radar with his very like-able, sun-rays-on-my-bed type track “Get Ahead” which obviously stole my heart with the Drake sample. In a happy not-so-coincidence, Different Sleep signed his latest release over to LA-based Friends of Friends, who aside from being teamed by a few particularly awesome people are just generally releasing cool, interesting, and unique material.
The Conflict EP is a definite shift for Different Sleep, and heads in a more moody direction than his previous works – aided by the first time with his own vocals. There’s a predominant sense of heartbreak, but as many of the world’s favorite films have managed to do time and time again, the EP lends itself to a beautiful and dreamlike state. The opening track manages to take a shuffled drum pattern to an effortless, transient place, where Different Sleep’s own vocals appear for the first time. “Slow Things Down” strips the drums away for an achingly wonderful piano-driven piece. Vocals from Dirty Gold on “Cold” put everything into slow motion, and the closer track “Damage” picks up where “Conflict” left off, bringing back the shuffled drums and truncated synths that weave through each ear with a graceful and slight sense of urgency. The EP is as if you were to fall through the various stages of heartbreak with an airy and enlightened sense of being… it rises above anger and aggression to a tender and yet still aching bubble.
You can read my chat with Different Sleep after the jump, where we discuss everything from Justin Bieber to the importance of understanding the music business and why everything from Toronto is better. You can check him out tonight at The Echo with Jerome LOL (who’s premiering his new live setup) and tomorrow when Friends of Friends does their takeover of Low End Theory.

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I had the real pleasure of hanging out quite a bit with the gLAdiator boys last week in Miami, and after knowing Ian (readily donned with glasses and at least one bucket hat) from our original industry trench days I have to say I’m quite pleased to see how far they’ve come. April 1st marked the release of their gettup / party-burner EP Assembly Line on Fool’s Gold and I think they kinda nailed it with this one. gLAdiator’s honest approach to just having a genuine GOOD TIME is tangible from their presence on stage to the structure in their songs.

The EP begins with “Work” – a record set at the perfect pitch, tempo, and range to easily launch this into a category with other big festival anthems… “Sweat” takes a heavy nod towards A-Trak’s production style, with stuttering reverb toppling itself over disco-oriented chords. Then you have “Assembly Line” which is almost exactly what you’d expect it to be… a drippy and rolling track with various leads and growls, chants and twangs… you can tell the guys had fun with this one. Or it took them like six months. Who knows. Unsurprisingly the EP continues it’s well-structured progression and you dive right into “230 Feeling” which with a militant drum intro and whooping sirens inevitably means you’re not really going to bed til the sun comes out. And finally, “Weekend” takes trap music canons of hollow eastern-european influenced bells and chants like “Where my white girls at?” and cuts them into something interesting by the aid of a perfectly chopped vocal synth cry.

Overall I have to say a valiant effort from the guys, they cover a lot of ground here and amongst the heavy midst of various trap artists who’ve found solace in the super low-end or rampaging horns of the genre, gLAdiator take a welcomed seat right in the middle. It’s neither completely cheesy nor over-saturated, which is a simple nod to gLAdiator just having fun making what they want to make. Their honesty and effervescence as musicians will assuredly be what sustains them on the ever-changing map of dance music. Nice one, guys.

You can go buy the Assembly Line EP on Beatport or iTunes or wherever music is sold, and you can stream it below.

On Tuesday Los Angeles based creative genius Jerome LOL released his Deleted/Fool EP on home label Friends of Friends. Having previously released an album on FoF as the now defunct LOL Boys, Jerome’s new EP is his first official solo release. I could throw words around about Jerome being a sort of avant-garde musical and visual curator, or how his aesthetic bleeds originality in its cheeky complexities and colorful simplicities – but that would be selling him short, and missing the point. My lack of ability to really envelop Jerome LOL as an entity is precisely his appeal. The off-kilter balance of this ‘tumblr-era x internet 1.0 x 90′s branding’ visual mish-mash with the delicateness and deeper meaning of Jerome LOLs musical endeavors is in my humble opinion so cleverly curated that I am just consistently in awe. Jerome’s filtering and curating of a dizzying amount of visual and audio influences from everywhere across the spectrum into a concise and branded look and sound is something I’ve always respected. His DJ sets are interesting and fun, his label Body High is a wonderful homage to LA and dance music origins while keeping releases and artists fresh and cool, and his music videos are insanely unique and some of my favorites:

The four-track EP begins with “Deleted,” starts with Jerome’s signature swinging drums, in true-to-form fashion created by an antiquated and distorted piece, the DJX-2. The claps and swing fade as Sara Z’s cool and sensitive vocals come in, with clear cut changes in the cord progressions between each verse carrying the mood. It’s these subtleties in the undertones that reveal the emotional complexities of the track – doubling computer jargon with the destruction of a relationship (“we’re offline, no course of action” “control, escape, command, delete, it’s all in our hands”). The track evolves and grows in almost pop-song format with repeated choruses and verses, a bridge and an outro, which shuts off all the drums just before Sara utters her last line- printing the track in your head.

“Always” continues with the cymbal-heavy, swinging drum patterns, this time lighter in feeling given the faster pattern & more effervescent vocals. The keys in the chorus are touching and warm, and the various inflexions of Sara’s voice on the word “Always” is captivating and soulful. The heavy distortion on the bassline and clanging drums on “Fool” flip the EP from pop-leanings to a much more club/warehouse mindset, until Angelina Lucero’s melancholy and poignant vocals rip you off your shuffling feet and onto the floor. But as the heavy bassline fades, a glockenspiel-sounding bridge comes in before Angelina’s chorus comes in, aided by incredibly pitched-up echoes of her voice carrying each line. The clanging drums and garage moodiness are met by the pitch shifts and “this instrument can never sound sad” use of the glockenspiel – it’s this touch of color in an otherwise entirely depressing track that is a common theme in Jerome’s work. The EP closes with “True”, another considerably moody song from Angelina Lucero’s teethy and slow vocals and sort of rain-down-your-windowpane piano chords that rain so heavily on the track it nearly drowns out her vocals until the very end.

Like with all artists that have developed their own signature patterns and sounds, I see the argument from both sides on Jerome’s heavy use of jazzy/swing drums and pop-oriented progressions: on one side it doesn’t have an grand sense of variety, but on the other it’s clearly a sound and vibe that nobody else is really doing. You can identify a Jerome LOL track from just a few seconds of listening, but because of that the tracks can be considered to start sounding the same. I’m personally more drawn to the ‘Deleted’ half of the EP, which to me is an example of the vibe of work I enjoy most from Jerome; the ‘Fool’ half dives much deeper into a darker side of his music which I simply do not grasp as well – I think that’s a side he’s still sonically developing. But I do have to give props to Jerome for really nailing the structure of his tracks.

You can purchase the EP on Bandcamp HERE or on iTunes HERE:

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Madness. Pure un-adulterated debauchery. You’ve heard good music before, but none like what Parov Stelar has to offer. They know that, the people of Europe know that, and now after watching their 40-minute tour documentary, I know that. It’s like a wormhole was opened up after a successful séance and the spirit and soul of the roaring twenties came ripping to the front of the stage. Combine that with modern dance culture and a melting pot of amazing vibes ruminates throughout the different venues. It’s not easy, putting on a Parov Stelar show. There’s three piece bands, five piece bands, and then there are the seven members that comprise Parov Stelar’s band. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard, in the best way possible. It’s unique, in a nostalgic sort of way. Not that you know what the roaring twenties were like, but one can certainly understand the explosion of individualism in modern terms, and that’s what makes the sound so exciting. Continue Reading

A couple months ago I happened to catch a ridiculous set by Felix Da Housecat at one of Bang On NYC‘s legendary parties. As a budding DJ and self proclaimed tech geek I wanted to know what he was using to mix with and was pleasantly surprised to find that Felix has taken up Traktor. So when Native Instruments reached out to offer me a chance to check out some of their gear, you bet I said yes!

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