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BEATTOPIA

by William Hancock.

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electronica

Jamie Catto and The Happening – As Deep As We Can Go Without Drowning.

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“Homage To The Goddess Proves Spontanteity Is The Key To Joy”.

Now here’s an interesting one. Jamie Catto from Faithless. Yep the dance act with Rollo and Sister Bliss. He teams up with Duncan Bridgeman again. The guy who he did The 1 Giant Leap series with. They knock out a chillout album and release it through Sydney-based downtempo label, One World Music. Literally knock it together. Three days. A bunch of famous dudes. A few non-famous and one big-ass jam at his mate, Dave Stewart’s old church-studio (the same place they did one of Dido’s albums at). And it sticks.

Catto explains “The Happening was a tithe or a thank-you gift to the Goddess of Music for letting me make a living from music in which I invited all my favorite diverse artists.” And so he did. The Faithless rhythm section rolled up. The keyboardist from Oasis. The singer from the Sneaker Pimps. the scratch DJ from Beck, the singer from the Hothouse Flowers. Then Maxi Jazz rolls in with Pauline Taylor, the voice from their epic track Don’t Leave and things begin to take shape.

There’s a distinctive world music flavour on the album, obviously originating from Jamie and Duncans work on the two movies and their associated soundtracks. Reggae and dub influences are also present. Intelligently produced, beautifully mastered and collaborated upon in a way I’m sure the goddess of Music would be proud of. The little duet at the start of Chances Are is a highlight with the digital and analogue world colliding with an African xylophone and scratch dj riff that is as delicate as it is massive. Some wise and deep words spoken from a number of different voices, downtempo goodness that washes from delicate and spacious to railroad-trucking style beats infused with a variety of different classic and modern instruments. Sitar, Duduk and clarinet sit alongside standard band setups and digital programming to create a fusion of sound-quality and a depth of music that is still rare today. To have this created in three days is mind-blowing on one hand and yet makes complete sense in the other. There are some productions that can only be successful if done on the fly. If this had been written prior to recording it most likely would never have happened (pardon the deliberate pun).

The album is chilled, textured, deep and intelligent carrying messages and wisdom within the music as well as aesthetic composition. It’s a wonder it hasn’t been more widely exhalted. But perhaps that’s the humility of the work that lives in the balance with its greatness.

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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.

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.

Pravana – Eastern Meditations.

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“Yoga and Meditation Soundtrack Takes an Epic Flight”.

For any music buff now and then a song comes along that stops us in our tracks. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. A nugget of gold plucked from the soil. Searched for, wished on and carefully panned out of the river. One of these such tracks is a piece from downtempo electronica act Pravana. Its called Garuda, from their 2009 album release Eastern Meditations. With a carefully selected angle into the yoga, meditation and relaxation sector this asian-flavoured menu’s main course is named after a large, humanoid bird from Hindu and Buddhist mythology. The Phoenix is a contemporary representation of the animal and Indonesia has adopted a more stylistic representation as its national symbol, the Javanese Eagle.

The track starts with a percussive bed reminiscent of the hammered dulcimer over tabla inspired beats. It’s the strings that take flight in a well arranged and brilliantly delivered scalar sequence of epic proportions. For a chillout track this is one gigantic bird taking flight. The bed tracks forward on the rails, filled out with the melodies of bells as the strings wind progressively through a duet of viola and cello that is breathtaking.

It’s a well thought out album angle with the relaxation, meditation and yoga all bound into the production. Not too busy, yet not too quiet it hits the spot for any downtempo inner-work accompaniments, providing a fresh and uplifting soundtrack for meditation, yoga and dreaming. Well composed, easily digested and beautifully produced it is the third sonic adventure from Simon Lewis, creator of the chillout/world music outfit, Amanaska. It fuses typically ancient stringed and percussive instrument sounds of the east, with the Australian indigenous call of the didgeridoo, bringing together sonic lands as far away as Bali’s Gamelan and the Tibetan Harmonium.

A great album to chillout, work or just breathe with. Complex in its simplicity and unassuming enough to sit subtly in the background or to turn up loudly and dominate a yoga flow, assisting in introspection or a flight of fancy.

Max Chillroom – Downtempo Electronica Album Review.

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“Downtempo Electronica Compilation Enjoys a Dubstep-infused Frizzante.”

Max Chillroom. A chillout electronica compilation, produced by Lloyd Barde of Backroads Music is out on the now defunct New Land Music record label.

Comprising of artists from countries including Israel, France, Sweden, Bulgaria and the west coast of the USA, this international compilation of downtempo electronica with a dub infusion is enjoyable, tasteful and delicate. Suiting the yoga-end of the spectrum the album, with a nicely arranged progression draws the listener through an array of sub-genres.

Hawaiian-based producer Bluetech makes an appearance with Kingdom of the Blind, showcasing dance-diva Alyssa Palmers vocal abilities (Afro-Jack, Steve Aoki). Sounds From the Ground (Elliot Morgan Jones and Nick Woolfson) make an appearance with their track Clover. Bopping smoothly with a slight break-beat style, complimented by a successful brass section from Crispy Horns. Warm synth-pads and interesting highlights make this a standout tune. Swedish outfit Kritikal Audio’s (Martin Skogehall and Robert Elster of Uppsala) downtempo appearance with Springbreaks is great. A progressive chillout tune from the UK based outfit, this uplifting piece with inspiring melody lines has hints of the dub-step sound smattered through the chug-a-lug style bed. Also of note is Bulgarian outfit Vataff Project, the brainchild of Victor Marinov. The group encompass an all senses show-style that includes visuals. Carpet Sounds gently dips from deep, synth-laden downtempo and into the more ambient styles with spacious soundscapes and delicate production. Shen (Noah Pred of Primordial Nature) with the dark almost spooky track called Descendant again draws on the dubstep inflection to punctuate the paragraph of sonic landscape we drift in.

Released in February 2007 this now somewhat outdated album is still worth a place in the collection. The selection and arrangement of tracks are enjoyable if not stand-out and make for solid background sounds or pleasant relaxation journey. At 75 minutes it makes itself worthwhile.

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