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Albums - Issue 587

dBridge - A Love I Can’t Explain

dBridge

A Love I Can’t Explain

Exit Records

Paternally influenced
8.5
It’s been ten long years since his last solo album, but during this last decade of heading up Exit records and the momentous Antonomic movement have helped ensure legendary status. dBridge finds himself in a chapter of his life since his last LP offering – as a husband and a father he has reached a new sense of creating music with only his own personal love for it as a prerequisite. The downtempo release floats beautifully between influences with house, techno and of corse drum and bass playing major roles, with the overall vibe on the surface feeling almost melancholy, but with a deeper, almost meditative listen there’s an undertone of soothing inspiration. ‘Monitored Meanings’ is a highlight for us with its slowed, stripped-back disco aura, as is ‘Wij Zijn’ combining soft sci-fi sounds with more traditional chords and an almost tropical drum pattern.
Anonymous
Smith & Mighty - Ashley Road Sessions (1988-1994)

Smith & Mighty

Ashley Road Sessions (1988-1994)

Tectonic/Punch Drunk

Bristol brilliance
9.0
It’s fitting that two inheritors of Bristol’s dub tradition, Tectonic and Punch Drunk, have teamed up to release this compendium of unreleased material from Smith & Mighty. Rob Smith and Ray Mighty were some of the first in the city to combine reggae soundsystem bass with hip-hop beats, predating Massive Attack, and went on to make hardcore, house and jungle that would influence Bristol d&b artists such as Roni Size. It’s incredible that the tracks on ‘Ashley Road Sessions (1988-1994)’ haven’t seen the light of day until now, as they’re equal to anything on their landmark ‘Bass Is Maternal’ LP. ‘Always Be There’ is wicked proto jungle, ‘Tumblin’ is elephantine digi dub to wreck systems, ‘Latent Energy’ is a subtle electronic reggae caper that revels in its space, and ‘Filmscore’ is brilliantly atmospheric d&b choppage. Curiously modern, and simply brilliant.
Ben Murphy
Daniel Brandt - Channels

Daniel Brandt

Channels

Erased Tapes

Ambitious and accomplished
8.0
Daniel Brandt’s second solo album on Erased Tapes in an ambitious one. It is a collision of worlds where minimalist classical piano explodes into a flurry of dancefloor synths, where thoughtful ambience shapeshifts into techno turbulence. It results in seven always-dramatic tracks that are full of tension and duality; advanced compositions that rage one moment and are serene the next. Throughout the album, calming piano ripples sit next to swelling chords that wash over you like a tidal wave. Thunderous drums suddenly break and trumpets take the lead, or pixelated keys rain down in a frenzy before celestial orchestrations disperse the storm. This is immersive, dynamic music that could work as well in an opera house as a darkened club, and hearing it in either setting will leave you utterly spellbound by the adventurousness of it all.
Kristan J Caryl
Objekt Cocoon - Crush

Objekt

Cocoon Crush

PAN

Devil in the detail Devil in the detail
8.0
With his SoundCloud description dishing out a list of genres you’re unlikely to find appearing on the site’s dropdown menus anytime soon – “3-step, bass-core, post windmill, proto-minimal wankstep, gondola, shithouse, acid wonk, ambient gabber” – Berlin-based artist Objekt, aka TJ Hertz, is constantly smashing through the hard and fast boundaries that occupy much of dance music. Take last year’s ‘Objekt Q’, a track designed for the club and one you could even say fell into the trend for breakbeat’s on-going renaissance. Built around a familiar drum loop, it ventured into odd, digitally rendered terrain, off-kilter atmospherics twisting and delaying to create an eerie, unfamiliar landscape that was anything but throwback. ‘Cocoon Crush’, his second album for PAN (following 2014’s ’Flatland’) continues this experimentation while jettisoning any dancefloor directness. Debut single ‘Secret Snake’ gave some taste of what to expect, an uncoiling build up of layered, hallucinatory tension released in its haze of synths and glitchy effects. This painstaking detail is ever present. The ever-morphing sound design and non-linearity of the creepy, crawling ‘Dazzle Anew’ sounds like ‘ISAM’-era Amon Tobin, as does ‘Deadlock’, hypnagogic hip-hop soundtracking a purple drank binge. The skeletally deconstructed club thump of ‘Runaway’, meanwhile, features demented toy box melodies and sound recording of children’s laughter atop its menacing bass. The album’s opener and closer, two versions of ‘Lost and Found’, provide more of the the grand melodic flourishes found on ‘Secret Snake’. A yearning, wistful haze of intertwining leads and gossamer pads, take away the pitch shifting delays and bursts of distorted noise and you’re be left with something simple and soul-stirring. As such ‘Cocoon Crush’ is a demonstration of both Objekt’s technical skill and musical prowess. In a world awash with new music, the blessing and curse of the digital age, his grand vision continues to light the way for what is possible.
Joe Roberts
Riva Starr - Curveballs

Riva Starr

Curveballs

Truesoul

Party hearty
7.0
Prolific Italian producer Riva Starr, aka Stefano Miele, descends on Adam Beyer's Truesoul to release his fourth artist album, following a handful of releases on the Swede's Drumcode off-shoot in the past year or so. It is not a contemplative affair. It's eleven scorched earth club tracks, pure and simple, and probably all the better for that. With precious little foreplay, it veers from the looped-up party drama of 'Piknik' and 'Disco Loco', to the realm of more abrasive bangers like 'Give Me Love', the pummelling 'Ride' and 'Analhog' (charming). 'Always', featuring the legendary Jocelyn Brown, is perhaps as sedate as things get, with warming pad chords reminiscent of early Deep Dish. The thing about unabashed party music such as this is that while it's unlikely to win the Mercury Music Prize, the winner of the Mercury Music Prize is equally unlikely to have you sweating like a zoo in a mucky basement. So it's apples and oranges, really.
Ben Arnold
FJAAK - Havel

Fjaak

Havel

FJAAK

Breakbeat assault
7.5
German trio FJAAK have mastered the art of crafting turbo-charged club tracks. Most of the time, a hulking great breakbeat anchors you to the floor and the spaces are filled in with the sort of bristling, strobe-lit rave energy that makes Modeselektor and The Chemical Brothers such compelling live acts. Their second album still features plenty of breakbeats, but there are also some deviations such as the introspective and beatless ‘Arctic Warmth’, sombre celestial loops of ‘I Could Never Live Without You By My Side’ and dystopian electro of ‘Smells Like Security.’ Elsewhere, more tropical FJAAK cuts ‘Take Your Life’ will rearrange your brain and ‘Martin’ has drums so overdriven they could be from a hard house record. Despite packing such a knockout punch, the trio make sure each track has a slightly different personality so things never become overly predictable.
Kristan J Caryl
Clouds - Heavy The Eclipse

Clouds

Heavy The Eclipse

Electric Deluxe

Post-rave apocalypse easy listening
9.0
Scottish techno duo Clouds return with their most impressive offering to date; spanning 3LPs, this epic release centres around a fully formed sci-fi storyline based in a future where Glasgow is taken over by a German conglomerate who launch a new society called the Neurealm. A trip to ​www.neurealm.net​ explains the rest of the story in detail with maps and illustrations. Good fun! Onto the music though; ‘Heavy The Eclipse’ clearly illustrates this post-rave apocalypse with its layers of fragmented broken beats, ominous textures and thundering propulsion. Various club references from junglist passages to vocal house interludes are warped to breaking point as they float through each track and sound collage in a way that brings to mind Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack. Plenty of pieces could hold their own in more experimental DJ sets like ‘Skulcoast’, ‘Parkzicht’ and ‘Eclipser,’ but this album should be taken in as a whole experience from start to finish.
Zara Wladawsky
TSVI - Inner Worlds

TSVI

inner Worlds

Nervous Horizon

Worlds ahead
8.0
As co-head of Nervous Horizon, TSVI has been steadily sweeping up sounds for his label that touch many corners of the globe. ‘Inner Worlds’, his debut album, takes inspiration from growing up in Italy, where his parents practiced Hinduism, and his exposure to Middle Eastern music and Sufi ideologies as a kid has impressed upon this LP which combines rapid-fire rhythms of belly-dance percussionists with flavours like UK funky, dancehall and Angolan tarraxo. There’s slowed-down, menacing reggaeton on ‘Jinn’ that judders and roars with each beat, while another highlight is ‘Realm of Jarabut’ which combines Eastern melodies with the most cutting-edge of UK dance tropes. Sparse yet supercharged; for anyone with even a passing interest in drum-led dance music, TSVI’s inner worlds are well worth exploring.
Felicity Martin
Shlømo - Mercurial Skin

Shlømo

Mercurial Skin

Taapion Records

Mercurial and mechanical
9.0
The debut LP from Concrete Paris resident and live aficionado Shlømo has been some time coming. The man in question has spent over a year in the studio developing these tracks, and the best part of a decade honing his craft professionally. The album’s history goes well beyond this, though. Renowned for making the kind of techno that ignores the paths well-trodden in favour of new territories, what dancefloor ammunition ‘Mercurial Skin’ has is no exception to that modus. ‘Jager Mod’ invokes mechanics and cogs with multiple percussive layers, resulting in something halfway between tense, drummy builder and train rattling overhead. ‘Suicide Ghost’ packs a punch, but its the melancholic vibe that stands out most. ‘Mouais’ is a solid juggernaut, yet we are drawn to the finer points, rather than overall assault. These moments, made to move feet, reflect what we expect from the producer, and the album sees his passion for curveballs and abstract details explored further still. In doing so it betrays Shlømo’s long-standing love affair with IDM and fringe electronica, with many of the finest parts here ambient rather than militant, confirming it must have been germinating longer than the artist has been releasing for.
Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
Idealist - Mind Field

Idealist

Mind Field

Echochord Records

Dub delivery
8.0
Running since 2002, Danish label Echocord has become one of the most prolific homes for the deeper, more dubbed-out side of house and techno. Joining the likes of Fluxion, Quantec and Luke Hess, Idealist has delivered his latest LP. First track ‘Explorer’ sets the tone with consistently evolving dub chords and hats that drive straight into the next track ‘Dimension’. ‘Stage One’ focuses on the flow of the low-end with swells of bassline and undulating dub chords that ride snappy percussion. ‘Singularity’ is perhaps the most melodic of them all, featuring off-kilter subtle synth lines and plenty of panned delay. ‘Smoke And Mirrors’ throws you straight back into the club sphere with darker grittier dub stabs, and a kick that begs to be tested out in Berghain. Idealist has a superb talent for creating endless depth and space within his music, and has mastered the art of resonating dub chord patterns that sound consistently unique.
Anna Wall
Planningtorock - Powerhouse

Planningtorock

Powerhouse

DFA

Still rocking
7.0
Testament to the strength of songwriting here that the omnipresent auto-tune throughout ‘Powerhouse’ doesn’t make this anathema. Jam Rostron, the 47-year-old, Berlin-based artist/producer behind electronic multimedia dance act Planningtorock has crafted a sweet, class-conscious, deeply reflective set of robo-soul here where the auto-tune takes on a T.I-style monomania. Crucially the songs are lyrically devastating, open-hearted memoirs of a difficult past always shot through with a redemptive sense of a future. The autotune, once you let it, becomes its own character in the piece, an act of subterfuge almost, a way of hiding Rostron’s face but allowing him to shout as loud as he can. Gorgeously minimal arrangements throughout seal the best electro-pop of the year this side of Jenny Wilson’s ‘Exorcism’.
Neil Kulkarni
Bruce - Sonder Somatic

Bruce

Sonder Somatic

Hessle Audio

Weird bangers
7.0
Bristol-based producer Bruce (real name Larry McCarthy) is part of Hessle Audio’s new breed. Since the psychedelic mind mangle of his debut for the label, 2014’s ‘Not Stochastic’, Bruce has honed a style that matches club-ready beats and bass with experimental sound design and bewitching noise. Subsequent singles for Livity Sound, Idle Hands and Timedance have increased his profile, though debut album ‘Sonder Somatic’ could be a breakthrough moment. ‘Elo’ takes cues from UK funky and house, with bursts of unearthly synth disrupting expectations. Another banger, ‘Cacao’ bristles with techno bass and bleeps, its crunching beats enhanced by garage rhythms. ‘Torn’ threatens to explode into jungle beats but never does, and ‘Æon’ is the best thing here, blooming from introspective beats into an emotive techno piece with swollen bass and flickering electronics. Not everything excites, but the best is gold.
Ben Murphy
Geotic - Traversa

Geotic

Traversa

Ghostly International

The gentler side of Baths
9.0
LA’s Will Wiesenfeld is a prolific musical presence indeed. Not content to operate within the wonky, whimsical boundaries of his popular Baths persona, his more mellow side can be heard via his Geotic alias, actually home to a huge amount of self-released material over the past decade. Recently it’s found a more prominent home on Ghostly International, with ‘Abysma’ last year, and here its swift follow-up. Parallels between the personas are both obvious and dissident. While both showcase his classic musical training, in Baths this manifests in wild flights of fancy, while Geotic explores gentler beats and singer-songwriter ambiance. From this perspective, ‘Traversa’ is nearly shockingly self-assured and fully formed. Without any need to bash listeners over the head with brash musical statements, Wiesenfeld allows his unassuming personal narrative to unfold with confidence, and it’s a seductively soft story indeed.
Angus Paterson
Extrawelt - Unknown

Extrawelt

Unknown

Cocoon

File under...?
7.0
After a couple of tracks, it quickly becomes apparent as to why Extrawelt’s fourth LP is ambiguously titled ‘Unknown’. Flitting between whirring electro and trademark minimal style, it’s a tricky record to define and unlike anything the duo have ever produced before. The first release after their album trilogy came to a close with 2017’s ‘Fear Of An Extra Planet’, it opens on the crisp, intricate snares of ‘We Are The Asteroid!’, their inclusion looming large over much of the album’s twelve tracks. It would be easy to dismiss tracks like ‘St. Morley’ as one-dimensional if not afforded the proper time but there’s beauty to be found in its simmering crescendo, while ‘Ort Und Impuls’ and ‘Die Zitrone Der Schöpfung’ are more immediate, the latter’s industrial punches to the skull giving bite to an otherwise unspectacular listen.
Anonymous