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BEATTOPIA

by William Hancock.

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album reviews

Textures

A series of textural photographs looking at emotions of different natural and artificial surfaces and media.

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New Downbeat Electronica DJ Mix by Will Hancock.

New Chill Mix featuring some of the tracks written up over the past few months.

Track List:

1. Heart Green Contentment – Matt Coldrick – Music* For A Busy Head. (Rogue Reptile Records).  2015. (Re-Release).

2. Nature Boy – Another Fine Day – A Good Place To Be. (Interchill). 2015

3. Losing My Mind – Honeyroot – Sound Echo Location. (One World Music). 2003

4. Floating World – Spatialize – Radial. 2015

5. Run – Sunmonx – In The Trees EP. (Interchill). 2015

6. Tide – Amanaska – Escape. (One World Music). 2014

7. Garuda – Pravana – Eastern Meditation. (Simon Lewis Music). 2009.

8. Embrace – Endorphin – Embrace. (Sony). 1998.

9. Low Sun – Chicane – Behind The Sun. (Xtravaganza Recordings).  2000.

A relaxing mix of mainly fresh, new tracks with a couple of golden oldies thrown in for a sweet finish and lingering aftertaste on the palate.

Check out some Experimental Downtempo Electronica and other DJ Mixes at

Spatialize – Radial and On The Edge Of Forever.

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“Double Release Hints At Triplets”.

Neil Butler self–released two albums at the same time in early December of 2014 under his Spatialize moniker. Enjoying the option of offering high quality 24bit FLAC downloads and the efficient, cost effective means of digital sales allowed Butler to let the two ‘birds’ fly together, allocating more of the budget to France based Hermetech Mastering. The high production quality is second only to the inspiring composition on both albums.

Radial and On The Edge Of Forever each come in at about 55 minutes. “Any longer than that [for electronic music] and you start to lose your concentration and the album just becomes background music”. It’s this type of meticulous attention to detail that is prevalent in the production of both his latest releases. After sifting through the unreleased material from the past couple of years “there was a core of tracks developing around a slightly different, darker, groove-based, electronica style”. “All-in-all I could see three albums emerging through the fog. Radial in a darker electronica style (and) On The Edge Of Forever in a psychill/global mood…”

Radial’s first two tracks sit comfortably in that groove-based niche. Driving progressive beats with cracking hats, and bridging synth melodies make for an exciting and inspiring introduction to the album. Later in the list we find a collaboration with Matt Hillier of Ishq.

On The Edge Of Forever seems to follow the same format. Two quick ones to start, dropping into several slow to ambient selections and a collaboration in the tail end, this time with Matt Heath aka. Krusseldorf.

The Downbeat Electronica genre has been defined by producers like Butler. So much so that this producer has gone on to define his own. Ambisonica. Downtempo, spacious, crisp, melodic and musical. These tracks are well composed and executed by someone who is obviously creatively talented and well educated in the art. A real pleasure to listen to. Both as individual tracks and as a progression through the albums. One can only hope that the hinted-about third album of the litter, Encrypted Transmissions is as good if not better. Apparently it is closer to the styles found on Radial. You little beauty.

A-Toniq – Found Peace.

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“After a Journey Around the World of Music, Guitarist Puts Down the Roots”.

It’s not often that a guitarist finds a path into the world of Electronica and back out again in one piece. Matt Larner is one such musician. After training on guitar from the age of 14, formally qualified with a major in composition shortly after and support act credits to his name for Grinspoon and Def FX with his band Majik Lift, Larner embarked on a journey into the world of electronic dance music.

In 2003 Matt (Fine Diner) and his brother Tim (Sensient) founded a minimal progressive trance label under the name Zenon Records and soon after re-located to Japan to focus on producing progressive psychedelic trance. Fine Diner was released on Cosmic Conspiracy Records from New Zealand and Groove Zone in Japan and supported artists such as Ticon and Vibrasphere on the international circuit.

In 2011 Larner returned to Australia and began producing two different styles under the one moniker. A-Toniq. Nakai is a four track electronica EP loosely falling under the chillout banner and inspired by the four seasons in Tokyo. Acoustic and electronic instruments are utilised in the composition that brings to life a number of different aspects of downbeat, with delicate and subtle elements of guitar present as well as the deeper electronic synths found in the world of trance production.

Late last year Larner made a full circle, returning to his roots with the independent release of an instrumental guitar album that seems to voice this musicians true passion for music. Found Peace is a composition that revels in the ether of relaxation. Chord structures and arrangements found in traditional folk music are contrasted by an at-times rockier edge to bring an album that guides one on a journey to both inner and outer space. Larners finger-work is refreshingly understated as he opts more for feeling than exhibitions of technical prowess. The clean and bright guitar production borrows from an almost 12 string sound, leading to the question of exactly what type of guitar was used through the album.

It seems the best is still to come from this musician as he delves into the natural abilities of his obviously talented skills. Perhaps a closer merger between the electronic and acoustic elements of the name that will surely lead to another level of artistic composition. A-Toniq.

Another Fine Day – Remix EP.

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“Another Fine Remix EP from Another Fine Day”.

Now here’s an interesting spin on some new tunes. A few weeks ago Interchill released Tom Green’s new album A Good Place To Be under his moniker Another Fine Day. A few days ago Interchill released the Remix EP of that album. 5 tracks. 36 minutes. Well worth the look. Two of the track Spanish Blues and three of And Dream Of Seals.

Off the cuff the first tune is a ripper. Entitled Spanish Blues – Hibernation Remix this one has all the jazzy subtleties of the original. The keys, the cymbals and the delicacy coupled with a big bass synth locking in with the solid yet gentle bed of the beat. A few punctuations over the top with a grinding, dirty, textured sound and this instrumental/electronica masterpiece grooves away with the jazz contrasted beautifully with the electronic component to give a balance that is solid, toothy and downright funky. Hitting the mid-section we open into a section of pure electronica before cutting back over the top with the jazz elements of the piano. These two teams jostle back and forwards for the remainder of the game that ends in a friendly back-slapping draw of smiles and beers. The composition gives both the jazz and the electronica due process, recognition and executes it in a way only a true artist could pull off.

More of the same meaty electronic goodness in the second track, Spanish Blues – Greg Hunter Remix. Maintaining the integrity of the jazz elements and balancing the palate with deep, dark electronica. The grinding shadows give focus and clarity to the original. A slower beat count is welcomed.

Then we leave the Blues in Spain to Dream of some Seals…..

And Dream of Seals – Another Fine Day Chaos Theory Remix. The chaos comes into this one with a discordant cacophony of almost irrhythmic percussive-style background. And it seems to work musically. While not the sweetest sounds an ear can hear it certainly brings an interesting spin as the contrasting chimes float over the top.

The Alucidnation Remix of And Dream of Seals is indicative of the composer in his true style. Right at home in the ocean of sound, Alucidnation has embraced the watery feeling, kept the seals frolicking in the sunshine and even seems to be able to write the sunlight streaming through the water into an almost ambient feeling downtempo track.

And Dream of Seals – Ishq Remix. Each of these three seems to get slower and more spacious and this is one very chilled piece. With the addition of some haunting vocals and chanting, spacious atmospheric pads and a little caressing, the environment is conveyed to the listener in a way that reminds one of floating around a pool on a clear summers day.

Greens been writing music for years and after the last album, its very refreshing to see people with similar tastes working with some of his material. The release is nicely balanced with some darker electronic elements, ambient sections and mid-range downtempo all present.

Suns of Arqa – All Is Not Lost But Where Is It?

 

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“Father of the Suns Collaborates with Downbeat Heavyweights to bring Life”.

Suns of Arqa have been hailed at times as one of the greatest pioneers of downbeat and world fusion in the modern era. Coming together in the late 70’s under the watchful eye of Michael Wadada, the collective has since ushered through over 200 artists, let fly around 60 releases, been recording for over three decades and have just released their latest full length album on Liquid Sound Design, All Is Not Lost But Where Is It? Featuring The Orb, Youth and Raja Ram.

Wadada formed SOA in 1979 after receiving higher guidance during a trip to Kingston, Jamaica whilst working with Prince Far-I, the traditional roots reggae chanter of legendry status. Invited by Peter Gabriel to play at the first WOMAD festival The Suns have released on Virgin, EMI and their own label Arqa Sound, played Boom, Roskilde, Glastonbury and Big Chill and have been credited with prolific and seminal influence on the World Beat sound. Finley Quaye, Zion Train and Steve Hopkins are amongst a hefty list of collaborators with Alex Patterson from The Orb, UK producer Youth and Raja Ram of Shpongle featuring on the latest release. Featuring the spoken words of John Cooper Clarke, produced by Martin ‘Youth’ Glover (as his first release since Pink Floyd’s The Endless River) the album is under distribution from Arabesque Digital with the release being directed by Triskele Management.

 Over the years The Suns have worked across the realms of World Music to combine the Piobaireachd music of the Scottish Highlands with Hindustani raga systems and Nyabinghi roots drumming of the Rastafari. The result is a deeply spiritual vibration that merges cultures, faiths and musical genres.

Erasmus Dub begins with a haunting wood flute from Raja Ram before dropping heavily into a Shpongle-esque dub flavoured beat. Several different male voices for the sampling and some deep driving bass lines fleshing out the halting rhythm make for a track that quenches any Shpongle-lovers thirst. The video is worth a quick look on Liquid Sound Design’s Facebook page.

The Fool Ascends is a progressive electro downbeat masterpiece. Dipping and rolling through waves of synth-washed, deep, bassy beats the acoustically instrumental flute floating over the top contrast beautifully to keep the listener locked in and flying high. Strangely enough the beat count comes in at around 120 but feels a lot slower. Perhaps there’s even a Terence McKenna sample in there to keep us on our toes. Either him or John Cooper Clarke.

Pablo’s Lament runs over the eight minute mark and begins inncocently enough in a reggae flavoured track complemented by harmonica. The oscillators begin working themselves in after about a minute and double time the background to create a marvellous composition of true downbeat textbook definition. Textured with many different samples and sounds one can only wonder why Pablo was lamenting so, and wether this track cheered him up or not.

The background of the band is impressive, the album itself delivers an electro downbeat sound worthy in any afficionado’s collection and is obviously the tip of the iceberg in a career spanning millennia, several major changes in popular music formats and an impressive release list. The spirituality of Wadada is evident in the progression of the band. He sums it thus; “It is the ultimate sound to take us through the changes to come. Where sound is not just a backdrop to life but ultimately is life itself”.

Another Fine Day – A Good Place To Be.

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“Another Cult-Classic From Solo Downtempo Producer Finds It’s Place”.

21 years after Another Fine Days’ Tom Green released the ambient-dub, cult-classic Life Before Land, he returns with a fresh basting of ambient-jazz styling in their latest release A Good Place To Be, out now on Interchill.

Fusing natural soundscapes with jazz, percussion and a smattering of instrumental electronica, the ambient and downtempo styles embraced in A Good Place To Be provide the listener with a captivating journey into the realms of natural music and sound. Birds and insects blend with jazz infused keyboards, ambient percussive punctuations, atmospheric synth pads and halting time signatures. Covering a spectrum of musical styles and genres this album doesn’t fit into any narrow slots, with synthetic and natural sounds and music creating a collage of sonic artwork across the board.

Greens’ colourful and varied past is apparent in the composition of this album. Rising from a post-punk outfit in the late seventies, blending with outfits including Baka Beyond, The Orb and Natacha Atlas and writing screen music for the likes of the BBC through his music production company Apollo Music, he contributes regularly to quality music libraries for Universal Music, EMI Production Music and Accorder Music. Tom also dabbles in various unique side projects including an ambient commission released in 2012 called Music For Tai Chi and a composition designed for installation in a new MRI scanner complex at the Royal Infirmary in Bristol, UK; Music For MRI Scanners.

Track 2 on the album A Good Place To Be, called And Dream of Seals blends affected bird calls with melodic keyboards and mallet percussion to create atmospherics that sit delicately over a bed of subtle beats, set back in the mix. Rising to an excited cacophony of oscillators supplying the playful seals in a wash of percussive waters, this downtempo creation is topped by an icing of electronic synthesis.

Enfolded is an ambient piece, wrapping the listener in temperate washes of electronic waves created using progressively arranged atmospheric synth pads, punctuated quietly yet powerfully with almost a hint of angelic brass in the wind.

From Tiny Acorns embraces Eastern-influenced strings and mallets in a percussive melody lifted by a bed of progressive, oscillator-effected beats. Atmospheric pads complete the palette as the track rises to the rhythmically melodic crescendo of a string-infused summit, all while the beats track nicely through the piece.

The influence of World Music on A Good Place To Be should not be overlooked. Subtle yet distinct, the instrument selection and devices used in the composition reflect a global connection transcending cultural boundaries and merging into a cohesively international blend of sound. Greens background producing with the likes of Abdul Tee Jay and his side project Newanderthal clearly influence this albums creation and its Remixes.

Even at these early stages of release, Another Fine Days’ new album A Good Place To Be obviously has the heavyweight staying power to become another cult classic in the lighter and more delicate styles of the ambient and downtempo music genres.

by William S. Hancock.

Buddha Bar – Hotel Paris. by Dj Ravin.

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“New Release Gives Strength to Good Old Times”.

Buddha Bar – Hotel Paris opened in June 2013 on the Right Bank in the heart of Saint- Honore. Rooms with all the mod. cons from 323.00 Euro a night come complete with a complimentary Buddha Bar compilation. The most recent album in this series was released in November 2014 and compiled by DJ Ravin.

Ravin met Claude Challe, the founder and owner of the Buddha Bar at a club called The Rex in Paris while djing at a party for Wiz Bombino. The two ended up collaborating on a few singles and after Ravin became house DJ at The Buddha Bar, they began to put together mix-tapes that reflected the sets Ravin was playing at that time. Since then he’s produced over 10 albums for the series, two solo albums and a couple of experimentally-eclectic, themed compilations.

This album has been great to listen to. Many repetitions and it still doesn’t seem to be getting tiring. The track list is nicely done, reflecting several different styles. The progression moves smoothly and unpredictably, creating a texture in the order that is refreshing. The mixes themselves are deft, yet not over the top. Just enough to make the album flow.

It starts strongly with the impeccable Gandhara by Amanaska from their recently released album, Escape. Chilled, regal and of a quality that is still hard to find even in this now saturated downbeat electronica environment.

Woman of the Ghetto (Akshin Alizadeh Remix) by Marlena Shaw is a nugget of gold. Every once in a while tracks like these pop their head up. Rare form and a welcome surprise this funky little number grooves itself away, set off by catchy sax and guitar riffs. Contrast these with a melodious little sprite of a happy little tone oscillating its way through a solid-yet-subtle, percussive, funk-infused groove. The guitar riff complements the sax perfectly as samples of Mistress Marlena drop in and out. Keys. All out. So freaking good.

Matham Dub by Thor. Exquisite. Deep dubby synth stabs over a slower epically composed percussion section. Middle eastern chants and strings floating gives a goose-pimple experience.

Sunshine featuring Matthias Wittmann (Thomas Atzmann Remix) is pretty smooth. Nice housey beat with layers of deep rich male vocals. Fairly minimal but tastefully arranged and some notable string sections flowing seamlessly into Herneise by Boral Kibil and Mahmut Orhan. This hauntingly atmospheric, deep, melodic house number sports a stomping kick drum and bass line. Atmospheric synth melodies and soaring string sections backed by percussion beds and a hypnotic synth hook give to a dancefloor with progressive sections that not only highlight the beautiful production but the impeccable composition. Brilliant. Another ripper.

Children of Love by Paji flows right on where Herneise leaves off. While not quite as deep as the one before the composition is remarkably similar and seems to have a string section that could almost have been played by the same artist. Male vocals, a nice travel on the dancefloor accentuated by a skip in the percussion and a slightly reverberating atmospheric.

The Touch (Radio Edit) by Grum. Electro House with flashes of epicness and a meaty midsection give the album a gear change at an appropriate moment.

Lovers Eyes (Mohe Pi Ki Najariya) by Damien Lazarus & The Ancient Moons is a tribal stomper. The native tongues fly over the top of a subtle tech-house beat. Deep grinding synth stabs contrast the world music beautifully with the hard edge of electronica. Travels well, nice rich sound, good composition.

Fall Underneath (Kilter Remix) by Snakadaktal gives us that great, up and coming indy-dance sound we’ve come to know from radio stations like the ABC’s Triple J.

A jazzy little remix of The Cure’s Tainted Love by Poncho Warwick called Tainted Jazz bops along, lounge stylee.

There’s some great racks on this album, and a few duds but no biggies. The second is a real downer. Depressing but still of a brilliant production standard. The fifth song is an eclectic choice by Ravin and doesn’t really seem to fit the playlist, but perhaps that’s sort of refreshing.

Overall the album doesn’t seem to tire when on repeat, is danceable or can be relaxed to on a low volume. The tracks are generally well picked and mixed, and the songs themselves (even the off ones) seem to be right on the money for the album’s construction as a whole.

Just what the doctor ordered. A pleasure and definitely worth a look.

Freedom Deluxe – Amanaska.

“Downtempo Does Dance in a Blend of Tracks from Ambient to the Bridge”.

Tribe 2 is an Australian based duo from Melbourne, Australia. In July 2013 Simon Lewis (Amanaska) and Jono Callow (Rivertribe) released Freedom Deluxe. With an eclectic blend of world music and electronica the album merges instruments from around the globe.

While probably classified as a downtempo world music album the variety of track speed’s (bpm) range widely. Most of the counts sit above 120 and the double-time sections in several songs give us a dance edge, contrasting the resting count. The albums track selection is balanced by ambient tracks and atmospheric sections.

On Wayfaring Stranger tabla and sitar from India blend with the didgeridoo from Australia throughout one of the slower beat counts on the album (80 bpm). The lilt in the rhythm creates a relaxing line, juxtaposed by the double-time tabla sections allowing a bit of a boogie if required. Solid arrangement and production in the percussion beds makes up for a crisp, full and rich journey. Some of the fast chanting on this track seems to be derived from the unique way in which tabla masters in India pass knowledge onto their students. The rhythms are passed vocally using different syllables to inflect the different strikes on this very complex hand drum-set. These ‘lessons’ have been adapted into the vocal tracks of this song.

Apparently the two musicians came together after logging several sustained years of touring independently overseas, recording with laptops in some far away places including India, Singapore, UK and USA. Upon the decision to collaborate they unfurled a plethora of recordings collected during their travels and sampled them to create songs we hear on the album today.

The haunting Cherokee Morning Song with a male Native American tongue calling to the dawn, combined with deep, spacious synths paints an almost spooky mental picture of the rising sun. This track merges almost seamlessly with the delicately composed I Shall Not Walk Alone featuring a washed out effects over vocal renditions of Ben Harpers lyrics, breaking out of a magnificent choral chant. The flutes float beautifully over the same haunting deep-space synths we heard in the prior song, entwined with the didgeridoo and again contrasting two very different cultures. Atmospherics and tension abound with the double-timed percussion section binding us to the ground.

God of Wonders shares a sitar introduction before dropping solidly into a crisp and boppy tune highlighted by the addictive crack of the snare, sitar again soloing over the top. Flute floats in and the slight reverb of the toppy drums gives the didge room to move. 100 bpm feels a little slower than the carry this one gives us.

With the acoustic elements of Rivertribe combining with the electronic aspects of Amanaska, both fusing the world music element, this album gives the listener a pleasant and interesting journey through a collision between cultures. The indigenous sounds of eastern and the western instruments blend with well-rounded beats, a variety of different vocal styles and clean production to make for an album that has an up-tempo feel while embracing the slower genres.

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