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 ------Jacaszek - Treny

Experimental post classical, electronic fusion. Treny is a wonderfully well crafted album that initially just hints at its hazy, grey beauty, catching the listener unaware as blissful melodies well up like apparitions out of blurry, mote specked ambience. Increasingly with each listen the music deepens and captivates, drawing you in, replaying the whole disc. Jacszek masterfully assembles disjointed sound canvases of eroded synthetic sound, glitchy blips, crackles and disturbances flecking the air like specs on damaged film. These constructs have their own muted attraction, and are frequently allowed plenty of time to gel unhurried and alone – at times the static clicks and ticks coalescing into rhythm, but only just. However, once the organic elements are added, the effect is incredibly absorbing; plaintive melodies on violin, cello and piano introduce a classical elegance that deliciously juxtaposes the electronics – in fine balance, neither aspect dominating the other. The musicianship is very delicate, full of feeling and grace. In places lightly plucked harp patterns fall into flowing regularity among the smoother instruments. The ethereal wordless vocalisations of Maja Sieminska hang in the air among these other elements - sometimes distant and dreamy as if carried from afar on soft breezes, sometimes more immediate, gently operatic and gliding. No samples here, this project works more like a live act and herein lies much of the impressive subtlety of the music – a contemporary quartet performing before a live audience. Much of the music has a romantic urban feel conjuring up visions of European city streets full of history and the glimpsed nostalgia of untold personal lives.

ARTWORK   Treny arrives in a jewel case of matt paper inserts that all have the feel of over-duplicated photocopies. These monochrome sheets obscure their archaic imagery amid the fragmented bands and inky spots of printing machinery. Across the beige front cover trail leafy branches arcing above a stencilled title. The rear cover presents a statuesque female figure in negative thick with graphic interference. Brief credits are here along with website details for artist and label. Within, the insert opens into two panels – outside simple, white ground with track titles and a list of the players. Within an architectural archway image holds the centre amid the dusk of ambient ink damage that bleeds gradually away toward the edges of the sheet.

Treny is the latest release from Polish musician / producer Michael Jacaszek. His lamenting synthetic-classical compositions perfectly fitting the chosen label for release – Miasmah. This label set up by Deaf Centre’s Erik Skodvin is rapidly building a reputation for delivering quality material in the field of dark, experimental beauty. The eleven pieces here all have a similar quality and form – each a different arrangement of consistent source material, each remaining within carefully restricted structural parameters allowing the variation of melodic content to first gain the attention. The irregularity, the grit and dirt of Jacaszek’s electronics make the stately strings and sparse piano seem all the more luxurious by comparison – timeless, opulent harmony ascending from the smog and detritus of modern life. This CD is one you really must hear if you enjoy serious quality music, in the vein of Max Richter, Deaf Centre and Colleen. Can’t recommend it highly enough.




 ------Freud - The Journey

Female vocals and lush, tranquil electronica. Freud paint gentle soundscapes of synth pads, lightly rippling arpeggios, abundant pizzicato plucks and warm acoustic guitar phrases. These are further softened by densely laid female vocal oohs and aahs drenched in reverb used as an instrument in themselves. Additional strings, harps, pianos and a range of global sounds broaden the mix whilst chimes and bell trees twinkle in the gloom of these inviting fire-side nocturnes. The beats are comfortable downtempo structures, blending real drum sounds with programmed hits and additional percussion. Clear singing takes centre stage in a dreamy romantic style that at times approaches West End musical delivery and at others a more ethereal Celtic softness. The lead lines are in places buoyed up by choral sections into climactic drama whilst in others they drop away into low intimate whispers.

ARTWORK   My promotional copy of this album comes with a front cover image that submerges portrait images amid the dense olive hues of a luminous collage that contains glowing light sources, architectural forms and textual shapes. The title is set out in an archaic gothic font – golden yellow on the muted greens of the imagery. The rear cover presents the track list for the album along with contact and website details for the Tantajo label.

Freud is primarily lead vocalist, Cora O'Donovan (who also plays bodhran) and Ingo Hauss on keyboards, grand piano, guitars and programming. In addition a range of other musicians contribute their skills to The Journey ensuring a rich instrumental sound and singer Maria Sanchez performs on a couple of tracks bringing variety to the vocal content. The Journey follows Freud's debut album Time Passengers and is released via U.K. based Tantajo Records, a relatively new label centred on contemporary easy listening ambient and downbeat electronica as well as lounge and global music. The thirteen tracks here have an Enya-esque timelessness about them, drawing on themes of dreams, enigmas and legends. In keeping with the lyrical content, the music has a pleasant, sleepy mystical quality about it. Clearly Freud are aiming for the sonic territory of the likes of Enigma and Enya and this quality recording will do much to establish them as an act to watch in the genre.




 ------Planet Boelex / Lisa's Antenna - Little World
STYLE   Blissful electronic downtempo with dreamy female vocals. This is a delightful album of warm, translucent digital soundscaping carried on glitch touched beats - serene washes and air filled pads form misty veils that enshroud lazy piano and synth melody with an effect that reminds me of sunshine dispersing the dawn chill. The music lingers in low key gentleness, builds into waves of tranquillity, sighs of intensity that breath in tandem with singer Lisa's wistful voice. It's a little like Planet Boelex have strung together a suite of the most beautiful interludes - those idle moments from the spaces in between - then built these naturally into complete forms in themselves. The vocals are equally effective - poignant, whispery, breathy - mostly delivered softly, occasionally lifting heaven high - intimate themes that neither dominate the music nor submerge too deep. The rhythm section is among the most serenely euphoric I've heard anywhere - uncluttered programmed beats that nudge the music forward, unfurling bass forms masterfully intertwined.
ARTWORK   Since this is a freely downloadable album you might expect little visual material, yet here is a full set of accompanying artwork - and you know what - this too is of a very high quality. Photographic imagery, little line drawings and painted textures interact with printed fonts and handwritten script in a fashion that calls to mind the more attractive aspects of personal scrap booking. The front cover features a misty landscape photograph where distant trees have softened into a single hue, reflected in a lake, little reeds dotting the foreground. The rear cover holds a shot of the wires and rods of T.V. aerials on a rooftop black against a grey sky. A grey painted panel to the left holds track titles and a note from Lisa to Ossi - the eyes of the artists bookending this section. Within, more lush, hazy scenery surrounded by eclectic pictorial details - a dark snail, curling twigs, a windswept couple on a plane of battleship grey, a bird on a roof, an abandoned bag. Very little information clutters the impact of the artwork - website details and titles.

Planet Boelex has been around since 2004 as an electronic music project originating from Finland. Ossi is a self taught musician who began his musical experiments using computer-based "tracker" programmes. He has to date released a series of albums and EPs via such notable netlables as Monotonik, Ogredung, and Kahvi Collective - all freely downloadable under the Creative Commons licensing system. But don't make the mistake of thinking that this guy's music is in any way inferior in quality to the expensive CDs that you have paid for to put on your shelves - Little World continues to demonstrate that Planet Boelex is a world class project, delivering material second to none. Little World is a five track EP released through the new netlabel Soft Phase. If Soft Phase can continue this high standard they will certainly be a label to watch. Planet Boelex's own promotional text describes the music as "soft, melodic electronica, fused with influences from ambient and IDM ... fluid soundscapes emerge from the interplay of pulsating programmed percussion and delicate unfolding synth melodies that echo rhythmically to form an intricate mesh of sonic textures". Singer Lisa says of her lyrics "My music may be soft and still, some times a bit religious, on the verge of being melancholy, but hopefully I pour some "Lisa humour" into it, stabbing it with an awakening discomfort". Download the album from Soft Phase here. Visit Planet Boelex. Visit Lisa's Antenna.




 ------Stuart Michael - Total Serenity

Tranquil instrumentals on piano, synth and guitar with something of an Eastern flavour. Total Serenity is a very gentle album of easy melodies that are appealing and warm without becoming sickly sweet. There are no beats, nothing harsh or dark - everything is bathed in a lush, amber, dreamy restfulness as the cover image is stained in that rich orange hue. Although the music doesn't attempt to appear truly oriental in form, there are numerous Far Eastern references; certain lead instruments have a more or less oriental sound and some of the scale patterns reflect the influence of Chinese music. The main themes are buoyed up on beds of silken, smooth washes and cotton wool pads, simpler secondary melodic phrases twining comfortably around the primaries. Shifting from one instrument to another, the lead lines are in constant flux - from acoustic guitar to harp to Eastern instrumentation to piano to flute - it's not always easy to tell when the sound source is synthetic and when it is acoustic. Bell trees soft gongs and various light chimes tinkle in the background adding to the pervasive air of far off mystique.

ARTWORK   My promo copy of Total Serenity features a beautiful image of a breaking wave at sunset. The curl of tide stretches the width of the cover - foaming and broken in places about to roll in others - in the centre, right at the apex of motion, a frozen moment of anticipation. A yellow disc of light throws an effulgent band across the sea, the wave tip and onto the beach. Steeped in orange that bleeds away toward the extremities, the front cover holds only the title and artist name in text. The same image re-appears on the back along with track titles, recording details and contact info. Whether the disc comes with a booklet of any form or not I'm not sure.

Total Serenity comes from Stuart Michael via GAP Records. The album arrives as a follow-up to Stuart's previous release Total Tranquillity. The music is most strongly characterised by new age sensibilities - inviting and absorbed in harmonious reflection. The six unhurried tracks here, ranging in length from around eight minutes to over thirteen, could well be used to create an atmosphere at a spa or to accompany a relaxing massage. If you are looking for something uplifting and positive whilst at the same time eminently calming then this CD is worth checking out.




 ------Collide - Two Headed Monster
STYLE   Industrial gothic guitar and electronic music with ethereal female vocals. Collide have a massive sound - pounding drums drive rich tracks of gritty guitar and sinuous bass full of energy that are in powerful contrast with singer kaRIN's voice. The singing is delivered with a languid cool, refusing to be hurried by the beat of the music kaRIN wields her seductive voice as if calmly controlling a tempest. The guitars are for the most part heavily effected - corrosive distortion creating a dense grainy feel for much of the time, broadened by various other flange or chorus type pedals and who knows what else - there's a lot in this sound. Statik also introduces various synthetic effects and textures that keep the mix percolating - peripheral details and bubbling ephemera that break up the surface like grunge layers on a photograph, and an almost orchestral sound on Shifting. The passages where the band wind the intensity down do a lot to add to the interest value of the album - sultry softer moments, downward spiralling interludes and even a few whole tracks of downtempo trip hop shadow. The album generally lowers the pace as the second head of the Collide monster rises to dominance - a more dreamy atmosphere, less noise and fuzz. That said there is an enjoyable variation of approach from start to finish, each track taking an unpredictable trajectory from the last.
ARTWORK   Two Headed Monster comes in a jewel case with a glossy sixteen page booklet. Imagery is primarily centred on shots of the band. Singer kaRIN appears on the front in reflective symmetry a conjoined two headed monster, hair lifted by unseen currents, shot in a limited palette of near sepia tones. Indeed this dark bronzy brown hue runs throughout the package - on the back another portrait mirror image with track titles rolling down the centre. Within textures of jagged stitching, cracked earth and twisted branches form backdrops for a wealth of information: lyrics are here, extensive credits, a whole page of thanks and plenty of studio photographs of the band.
OVERALL    This is now the fifth or sixth album from Collide depending on how you count things (the double disc Vortex being largely a remix collection). This current release, once more on the Noiseplus label, sees the band more solid, confident and polished than ever; true to their darkwave heritage still, yet with some more dance floor elements and at times even leaning a little in the direction of edgy pop. There are elements in the music that further explore some directions taken on the Secret Meeting project where the Collide duo teamed up with ex-Curve main man Dean Garcia. The ten track Two Headed Monster comes five years after the last full studio album and it's worth the wait - all of the controlled chaos, the thick catchy riffs, the inventive programming and crepuscular mystique - it's all here only even more well-produced than before. Have a listen on the band's website.





 ------ill.gates - Autopirate

Urban flavoured dubstep and grime instrumentals with occasional vocals. Autopirate blends elements of glitch, dub, lounge, IDM, house and hip-hop to create a cut and paste framework where vocal snips and phrases flutter among strongly rhythmical yet constantly shifting disjointed structures. All manner of blips, clicks and electrical flecks flicker among the constantly varying programmed drum tracks - muted loops and frequent effected interludes interrupt the flow of grooves that carry the diverse marks of DnB, dancehall and electro influence. Bass bombs and sub wobbles add interest to the low end whilst a veritable plethora of psychedelic FX further fracture the sonic surface making for a very lively sound. Melodic content is often held by the basses embellished by acidic motifs and brief keyboard touches. Spoken voice samples and rasta shouts introduce a clearer human element to many of the tracks whilst a couple of pieces are carried more fully by female vocals - net neutrality rantapella is exclusively made up of montaged speech samples.


The overriding tone of Autopirate is one of modern city clublife. The grooves are very contemporary and mostly danceable. The emphasis on rhythm over melody creates an impression of fleeting night scenes, life in motion, street culture collage. The inventive drum tracks often have a sombre urgency about them as well as a technical complexity that suggests manipulated mechanism - digital montages of techno spatter. Hard to keep still under the influence of such powerful rhythms.

ARTWORK   Autopirate arrives in a glossy card gatefold package. The design is purely black and white, mostly comprised of thickly layered text and various logos. The densely slathered black fonts generally thicken into a central mass of darkness which is then broken back into with white lettering for titles and info. The front cover drags a scuffed band of mangled print elements from left to right reminiscent of a distant cityscape - titles on top. The tracklist appears on the back and on the inner flap, logos for Mutimusic and The Phat Conductor to the sides. Within, the same graphic approach is taken with credits, thanks and a paragraph of 'much love' typed out each on its own surface of broken blackness.
OVERALL    This is the new project from the Canadian underground producer well known for his work as The Phat Conductor. This debut album under the current title is released by Mutimusic, an EP entitled The Sweatshop was previously released in collaboration with Meesha on the same label earlier this year giving an indication of what to expect. The thirteen tracks here feature collaborative writing, singing and musical input from a number of like minded artists. Singers Masia One and Clara Venice provide two very different complete vocal contributions to the tracks irma vep and prickles n goo - the former delivering a pacey rap, the latter a dreamy, breathy song of almost ethereal delicacy against the grit and guts of the supporting electronica.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM   Autopirate is one for lovers of intelligent electronic dance music, especially if you have a liking for eclectic urban imagery and beaty instrumentals. The Mutimusic website has a free promo mix that you can download to get an idea of ill.gates unique sound.
Go to Get These Tracks Add This Player

lill.gates @ Mutimusic
ill.gates @ Myspace
The Phat Conductor website.

Listen to the Sweatshop sample EP at Beatport