Ear Influxion

Moskitoo: “Mint Mitosis” (Mitosis, 12k)

When I heard Moskitoo’s Mitosis album last year, I’ll admit that it didn’t really grab me at first. In hindsight, listening to her album again recently, I’m wondering if it wasn’t just my own baggage I brought to the table. 12k has evolved considerably since the more austere days of their inception, and Moskitoo only expands on the more organic leanings of other recent releases, including some material by 12k owner Taylor Deupree himself.

I find the delicate pop confections of Moskitoo to be not unlike that of early Múm or the earliest wave of acts on Morr Music. The sound is fragile, almost toylike, with characterized by her light, airy voice and a sweetness that is only just a taste away from saccharine. But at times I find myself enjoying her blend of sounds quite a lot, like on this track, probably my favorite one of all.

Diamond Version - Were You There? (with Neil Tennant)

Diamond Version: Were You There? (CI, Mute 2014)

An upcoming collaboration between Diamond Version (Carsten Nicolai aka Alva Noto, and Olaf Bender aka Byetone) and Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys. It will appear on Diamond Version’s first full-length album on Mute, CI, due out in June. It’s an unlikely colliding of worlds, but I’m digging it!

Leon Vynehall: Music for the Uninvited (3024)
Leon Vynehall’s mini-album for Martyn’s 3024 is a really fantastic foray into deep house tunes that look to the past for inspiration. There’s a dusty cabinet element to Vynehall’s aesthetic that feels warm and familiar and almost stately, a reverence for the house music around the turn of the 90s. It should come as no surprise that one of its many solid tracks, “It’s Just (House of Dupree),” references Paris Is Burning in its sound byte samples.

Vynehall clearly has a deep respect for that music and its context, and it comes through in his handsome productions. Disclosure’s Settle was a surprise hit last year, touching on vintage acid house, rave, and early house sounds with an allegiance that was shocking spot-on (considering how young its members are), and Vynehall’s tracks here aren’t so far off that mark, either. But Vynehall’s tracks are deeper, more lush, less concerned with pop hooks or guest vocalists, less angling for the charts. And so there’s something refreshingly easy about playing through this whole thing again and again, feeling both familiar and exciting at once.

The best thing about Vynehall’s music, in my opinion, is his refusal to overly quantize everything with perfect precision. So beats and basslines hit slightly off from one another at times, sounding more handmade and human. That quality is reflected in the actual sound as well, with frequencies that might not be flawlessly mastered or mixed, but it sounds unconcerned with perfection (again, in a way that feels easy rather than sloppy) and more personal as a result. Adding a string quartet to the mix on the sly opener “Inside the Deku Tree” and the tail end of “It’s Just (House of Dupree)” only amplifies the human side of the music, with “Christ Air” offering a nice respite from the house sensibility of most other tracks in the final quarter of the release.

Its sound is closer to the spacious patience of Airhead, and it’s a nice complement to the more dancefloor-friendly sounds found elsewhere here. But the heart and soul of this release is in Vynehall’s lush arrangements and warm production, working just as vibrantly on a set of good headphones as it would on a nice system.
Buy it: Boomkat | iTunes | Bleep | Amazon

Leon Vynehall: Music for the Uninvited (3024)

Leon Vynehall’s mini-album for Martyn’s 3024 is a really fantastic foray into deep house tunes that look to the past for inspiration. There’s a dusty cabinet element to Vynehall’s aesthetic that feels warm and familiar and almost stately, a reverence for the house music around the turn of the 90s. It should come as no surprise that one of its many solid tracks, “It’s Just (House of Dupree),” references Paris Is Burning in its sound byte samples.

Vynehall clearly has a deep respect for that music and its context, and it comes through in his handsome productions. Disclosure’s Settle was a surprise hit last year, touching on vintage acid house, rave, and early house sounds with an allegiance that was shocking spot-on (considering how young its members are), and Vynehall’s tracks here aren’t so far off that mark, either. But Vynehall’s tracks are deeper, more lush, less concerned with pop hooks or guest vocalists, less angling for the charts. And so there’s something refreshingly easy about playing through this whole thing again and again, feeling both familiar and exciting at once.

The best thing about Vynehall’s music, in my opinion, is his refusal to overly quantize everything with perfect precision. So beats and basslines hit slightly off from one another at times, sounding more handmade and human. That quality is reflected in the actual sound as well, with frequencies that might not be flawlessly mastered or mixed, but it sounds unconcerned with perfection (again, in a way that feels easy rather than sloppy) and more personal as a result. Adding a string quartet to the mix on the sly opener “Inside the Deku Tree” and the tail end of “It’s Just (House of Dupree)” only amplifies the human side of the music, with “Christ Air” offering a nice respite from the house sensibility of most other tracks in the final quarter of the release.

Its sound is closer to the spacious patience of Airhead, and it’s a nice complement to the more dancefloor-friendly sounds found elsewhere here. But the heart and soul of this release is in Vynehall’s lush arrangements and warm production, working just as vibrantly on a set of good headphones as it would on a nice system.

Buy it: Boomkat | iTunes | Bleep | Amazon

Baby Ford & The Ifach Collective: “Tea Party” (Sacred Machine, Klang 2001)

At the peak of my fascination with minimal techno, Baby Ford’s ultra reduced tracks eluded me — I preferred the nostalgia of his earlier stuff but couldn’t find my way into some of these more austere, minimal workouts. This particular track resides somewhere in the middle and was done with the Ifach Collective, a group of collaborators that included Eon, Mark Broom, and Thomas Melchior. Of all of the tracks on Sacred Machine, it’s perhaps the most irresistible.

Ocoeur: Memento (n5MD)
Franck Zaragoza’s newest EP as Ocoeur (phonetically from “Au cœur” = “to the heart”) shows off his production skills in spades with three completely gorgeous new originals paired with two handsome remixes. Ocoeur’s sound is rich and dynamic, mixing pure electronic sounds with more electro-acoustic sound design and lush, cinematic arrangements. The closest comparison I might draw is some of Jon Hopkins’s most luscious tracks and arrangements, but Zaragoza’s hand is more delicate, less coarse. That much is immediately noticeable in “Fusion,” the gorgeous opening track. It bristles with quiet tension as tremolo drones hold steady under its otherwise tragically beautiful piano and strings. An added layer of manipulated textural noise adds another thin layer of tautness to a strong first showing. The second track, “Memento,” begins with a layer of bubbly noise before it shifts shape into a squirmy, textural pattern of rhythm. This then serves as the backdrop for another beautiful arrangement of delicate sounds, feeling like a lush re-interpretation of all of that crunchy beat-laden IDM circa 1999-2000. “4.16” continues the streak of beauty with its sparkling music-box melodies over a winding bass synth and a crunchy electro-acoustic rhythm track. Zaragoza’s talent for manipulating what appears to be organic concrete sounds into beats and other patterns is noteworthy, providing a detailed and technical layer of complexity where I often find myself wondering what sounds are “real” or fully synthesized. While their end results are very different, he has this knack for sculpting sound in common with Amon Tobin (whose Isam album remains one of the best experiences in sonic fidelity I can recall in the last decade).

The remixes of “Light,” the original version of which is on his previous n5MD album, Light as a Feather, stand strongly alongside his new originals. Ben Lukas Boysen (of Hecq) contributes a stunning rework that emphasizes piano (prepared or otherwise manipulated) over all else, with a different sense of drama from the original. Recent n5MD signing Elise Melinand also contributes a handsome rework, drawing inspiration from the spaces between and prolonging them into a haze of drones of strings, electronics, and voice. Halfway through it takes a more obvious turn, layering strident percussion over some nice, deep bass to give it more of a pulse. Both treatments offer nice alternatives to Ocoeur’s original, and all three versions are equally good in my opinion. In my backlog of new music, this had nearly slipped through the cracks. It was released back in December quietly as a digital-only EP, and it’s well worth your full attention.
Buy it: n5MD | Boomkat | iTunes | Amazon

Ocoeur: Memento (n5MD)

Franck Zaragoza’s newest EP as Ocoeur (phonetically from “Au cœur” = “to the heart”) shows off his production skills in spades with three completely gorgeous new originals paired with two handsome remixes. Ocoeur’s sound is rich and dynamic, mixing pure electronic sounds with more electro-acoustic sound design and lush, cinematic arrangements. The closest comparison I might draw is some of Jon Hopkins’s most luscious tracks and arrangements, but Zaragoza’s hand is more delicate, less coarse. That much is immediately noticeable in “Fusion,” the gorgeous opening track. It bristles with quiet tension as tremolo drones hold steady under its otherwise tragically beautiful piano and strings. An added layer of manipulated textural noise adds another thin layer of tautness to a strong first showing. The second track, “Memento,” begins with a layer of bubbly noise before it shifts shape into a squirmy, textural pattern of rhythm. This then serves as the backdrop for another beautiful arrangement of delicate sounds, feeling like a lush re-interpretation of all of that crunchy beat-laden IDM circa 1999-2000. “4.16” continues the streak of beauty with its sparkling music-box melodies over a winding bass synth and a crunchy electro-acoustic rhythm track. Zaragoza’s talent for manipulating what appears to be organic concrete sounds into beats and other patterns is noteworthy, providing a detailed and technical layer of complexity where I often find myself wondering what sounds are “real” or fully synthesized. While their end results are very different, he has this knack for sculpting sound in common with Amon Tobin (whose Isam album remains one of the best experiences in sonic fidelity I can recall in the last decade).

The remixes of “Light,” the original version of which is on his previous n5MD album, Light as a Feather, stand strongly alongside his new originals. Ben Lukas Boysen (of Hecq) contributes a stunning rework that emphasizes piano (prepared or otherwise manipulated) over all else, with a different sense of drama from the original. Recent n5MD signing Elise Melinand also contributes a handsome rework, drawing inspiration from the spaces between and prolonging them into a haze of drones of strings, electronics, and voice. Halfway through it takes a more obvious turn, layering strident percussion over some nice, deep bass to give it more of a pulse. Both treatments offer nice alternatives to Ocoeur’s original, and all three versions are equally good in my opinion. In my backlog of new music, this had nearly slipped through the cracks. It was released back in December quietly as a digital-only EP, and it’s well worth your full attention.

Buy it: n5MD | Boomkat | iTunes | Amazon

Atom™: “Ich Bin Meine Maschine (Linear Remix)” (Ich Bin Meine Maschine, Raster-Noton)

One of three exclusive remixes of this cut from Uwe Schmidt’s outstanding album from last year, HD. Other remixes on the EP are from Function and Boys Noize and are both also quite good. But this one seems to be the best intersection of Schmidt’s original and the Raster-Noton aesthetic while still working as a cool track in itself.

Millie & Andrea: Drop the Vowels (Modern Love)
Andy Stott and Miles Whittaker once again don their female pseudonyms for this debut full-length, coming some years after a rather intriguing set of 12” singles on the Daphne imprint. While a couple of those tracks have also found their way onto the lineup here, most of the album is new, recorded in the last year or so, it would seem. The opening track, “GIF RIFF,” is more of a palate cleanser than delivering on expectations from anyone familiar with the duo’s other output; it begins with a curious sample of indigenous chanting before turning into a syncopated, spacious set of rhythmic sounds not unlike the more industrial side of Nurse With Wound. Miles Whittaker proclaimed in a recent FACT magazine interview (well worth a read), “Too many people are really too serious about what they’re doing. And in the end a lot of music’s just fun to make.” Strong words from one half of Demdike Stare, an outfit that’s made traditionally uncompromising and often difficult, sprawling music over the last several years. Andy Stott also is not an artist I’d associate with casual or flippant humor in his music. He’s been exploring curious terrain for several years now, shifting focus from the streamlined techno of his Unknown Exception compilation of previously released tracks and instead diving headlong into music that sounds like drum &  bass or dance music trends slowed down and turned sideways. His Luxury Problems release in 2012 remains one of the strongest leftfield dance albums of the past decade. What made those early Daphne 12”s most memorable is that they have a rather fun spirit about them, even if the music itself isn’t necessarily joyous or bright. The duo are clearly mining dance music’s checkered past, through references to breakbeat, jungle, rave culture, and more, though experienced through each artist’s rather particular musical lens. “Stay Ugly” is the first proper rhythmic track after the opener, living up to its name with an almost unnecessary layer of bass-heavy distortion. If not for that coarse surface treatment, the track otherwise is almost jaunty, with swelling pads and clattering mid-tempo breakbeat patterns.

In that sense, it’s perhaps perfect that the third track is “Temper Tantrum,” originally released in the first run of singles in 2009. Its jerky broken beat and donk bass, in combination with skittering fills, smooth pads, and tiny disembodied vocal samples, feels like a love letter to the dance music of the past while also being a fresh document of the here and now. Perhaps that is my favorite thing about their collaborations, that they make all sorts of inside references to the music of their youth and the past without it feeling cloying or overly ironic, or even fully necessary to notice in order to appreciate the tracks for what they are. In the end, good dance music stands on its own, and these tracks are no exception. “Spectral Source” follows as another previously released track, again flitting across several micro-genres without any allegiance to one in particular; there are tinges of burgeoning trends of bass music of the time (2009) with a genuine spirit of playfulness and curiosity. It shouldn’t be surprising that “Corrosive” is a newer track, with a sound that is a tad darker, picking up from its respective creators’ darker, more distorted, more recent lexicons. There are shades of Miles’ harsh and distorted works on his recent Faint Hearted album and its Unsecured companion EP, and the weird lo-fi slowdowns of Stott’s Luxury Problems finds its way into the mix here and there, but it is the homage to dance music’s past — in this case, late 90s sputtering hardstep — that provides the most entertaining element in this track. That stop/start sample triggering continues on the title cut, the most overtly rhythmic and least melodic cut on the album, with almost no supporting elements aside from an occasional stark pad sweep. “Back Down” combines the rough edges of “Stay Ugly” or Demdike Stare’s recent Test Pressings series with elements of old school techno and some of the swirling slow-motion sounds of Andy Stott’s recent album. The album doesn’t overstay its welcome at eight tracks, ending with the beatless, languid forms of “Quay.” The contrast of swooning, looped phrases and grimy digital surface noise is effective, reinforcing the sense of contrast that informs most of the album in a more serene way. Like the solo music of its creators, these tracks reveal their personality and appeal over time, making it an album that wasn’t an instant love affair for my ears. But several listens in, I can appreciate the magic in their collaborations. I applaud their respective successes (Miles and Demdike Stare on the one hand, Andy Stott on the other) but am glad the two were able to put their heads together with some new perspective to keep the project alive and better than ever.
Buy it: Boomkat | iTunes | Amazon

Millie & Andrea: Drop the Vowels (Modern Love)

Andy Stott and Miles Whittaker once again don their female pseudonyms for this debut full-length, coming some years after a rather intriguing set of 12” singles on the Daphne imprint. While a couple of those tracks have also found their way onto the lineup here, most of the album is new, recorded in the last year or so, it would seem. The opening track, “GIF RIFF,” is more of a palate cleanser than delivering on expectations from anyone familiar with the duo’s other output; it begins with a curious sample of indigenous chanting before turning into a syncopated, spacious set of rhythmic sounds not unlike the more industrial side of Nurse With Wound. Miles Whittaker proclaimed in a recent FACT magazine interview (well worth a read), “Too many people are really too serious about what they’re doing. And in the end a lot of music’s just fun to make.” Strong words from one half of Demdike Stare, an outfit that’s made traditionally uncompromising and often difficult, sprawling music over the last several years. Andy Stott also is not an artist I’d associate with casual or flippant humor in his music. He’s been exploring curious terrain for several years now, shifting focus from the streamlined techno of his Unknown Exception compilation of previously released tracks and instead diving headlong into music that sounds like drum &  bass or dance music trends slowed down and turned sideways. His Luxury Problems release in 2012 remains one of the strongest leftfield dance albums of the past decade. What made those early Daphne 12”s most memorable is that they have a rather fun spirit about them, even if the music itself isn’t necessarily joyous or bright. The duo are clearly mining dance music’s checkered past, through references to breakbeat, jungle, rave culture, and more, though experienced through each artist’s rather particular musical lens. “Stay Ugly” is the first proper rhythmic track after the opener, living up to its name with an almost unnecessary layer of bass-heavy distortion. If not for that coarse surface treatment, the track otherwise is almost jaunty, with swelling pads and clattering mid-tempo breakbeat patterns.

In that sense, it’s perhaps perfect that the third track is “Temper Tantrum,” originally released in the first run of singles in 2009. Its jerky broken beat and donk bass, in combination with skittering fills, smooth pads, and tiny disembodied vocal samples, feels like a love letter to the dance music of the past while also being a fresh document of the here and now. Perhaps that is my favorite thing about their collaborations, that they make all sorts of inside references to the music of their youth and the past without it feeling cloying or overly ironic, or even fully necessary to notice in order to appreciate the tracks for what they are. In the end, good dance music stands on its own, and these tracks are no exception. “Spectral Source” follows as another previously released track, again flitting across several micro-genres without any allegiance to one in particular; there are tinges of burgeoning trends of bass music of the time (2009) with a genuine spirit of playfulness and curiosity. It shouldn’t be surprising that “Corrosive” is a newer track, with a sound that is a tad darker, picking up from its respective creators’ darker, more distorted, more recent lexicons. There are shades of Miles’ harsh and distorted works on his recent Faint Hearted album and its Unsecured companion EP, and the weird lo-fi slowdowns of Stott’s Luxury Problems finds its way into the mix here and there, but it is the homage to dance music’s past — in this case, late 90s sputtering hardstep — that provides the most entertaining element in this track. That stop/start sample triggering continues on the title cut, the most overtly rhythmic and least melodic cut on the album, with almost no supporting elements aside from an occasional stark pad sweep. “Back Down” combines the rough edges of “Stay Ugly” or Demdike Stare’s recent Test Pressings series with elements of old school techno and some of the swirling slow-motion sounds of Andy Stott’s recent album. The album doesn’t overstay its welcome at eight tracks, ending with the beatless, languid forms of “Quay.” The contrast of swooning, looped phrases and grimy digital surface noise is effective, reinforcing the sense of contrast that informs most of the album in a more serene way. Like the solo music of its creators, these tracks reveal their personality and appeal over time, making it an album that wasn’t an instant love affair for my ears. But several listens in, I can appreciate the magic in their collaborations. I applaud their respective successes (Miles and Demdike Stare on the one hand, Andy Stott on the other) but am glad the two were able to put their heads together with some new perspective to keep the project alive and better than ever.

Buy it: Boomkat | iTunes | Amazon

V/A: 100DSR (Delsin)
Delsin Records has been operating on the sly for a long while now, and with their 100th release they are celebrating with a five-part series of 12” vinyl releases, collected here digitally as one impressive opus. For those buying digitally, the full comp is the way to go, including a few other tracks from the catalogue as well as costing significantly less (especially factoring in digital retailers’ tendency to treat tracks over 10 minutes long as “album only,” jacking the price). Delsin’s aesthetic has always been varied enough to be interesting but with high enough quality control to be consistently reliable. The artists and tracks culled together for 100DSR are no exception, calling on some of the label’s brighter successes as well as dark horses to make a pretty vibrant collection of deep and minimal grooves. The full compilation plays back in mostly the same running order as the vinyl (I had actually purchased some of the singles separately before resorting to the full comp to get a few bonus tracks for the same inflated price of the missing installments flagged as “albums”) with only a few exceptions, and I think it’s smart for the label to keep that order in tact. Just as Delsin tends to often walk the line between techno, house, and “other” with its releases, this collection takes twists and turns along the way. Gerry Read’s “Granny Bag” is a welcome surprise, not sharing the same dusty lo-fi edge of his album and EPs but instead feeling a tad brighter and synthier. There are some pleasantly more downtempo tracks, like the melodic classic IDM of CiM’s “Way Station,” the half-speed plod of Ross 154’s “Moon FM Desire,” or the hazy ambient interlude that comes courtesy of Bnjmn. Several artists flex their techno muscle with some no nonsense dancefloor techno tracks, including Mike Denhert’s banging “Passenger,” the Warehouse Mix of Claro Intelecto’s “Heart,” Area Forty_One’s “Supervoid.” A clean feeling of Detroit nostalgia comes through on Convextion’s “Verna” or D 5’s “Stem Cell.” My personal favorite is toward the front; Unbroken Dub’s “Spacing” is spacious and aspirational, soaring over an even pulse with distant bells and shimmering pads. Another real personal highlight is Delta Funktionen’s “Petrol,” a booming distorted electro-bass track that takes its time working up to an ominous stride. A Made Up Sound’s remix of “Rear Window” is the jerkiest track here, landing slightly out of bounds of most of the rest of the comp (which makes sense given that it’s one of the few previously released tracks here), sounding closer to Delsin’s “-e” series of 12”s more than some other cuts here, but paired well with Herva’s “Radio’s Mutterings” as a one-two punch in the middle of the tracklist. Wisely, the compilation ends with John Beltran’s “Return to Nightfall,” a track that’s far more dancefloor friendly than most of his last outing for the label but which also synthesizes so many of the disparate, strong sides of the label’s aesthetic, combining elements of techno, house, IDM, and that elusive “other” with his signature panache.

The whole collection is well worth a listen, traversing a fairly broad amount of terrain relatively swiftly and offering plenty of quality tracks to support its already reputable line-up.
Buy it: Delsin | Boomkat | Bleep | iTunes | Amazon

V/A: 100DSR (Delsin)

Delsin Records has been operating on the sly for a long while now, and with their 100th release they are celebrating with a five-part series of 12” vinyl releases, collected here digitally as one impressive opus. For those buying digitally, the full comp is the way to go, including a few other tracks from the catalogue as well as costing significantly less (especially factoring in digital retailers’ tendency to treat tracks over 10 minutes long as “album only,” jacking the price). Delsin’s aesthetic has always been varied enough to be interesting but with high enough quality control to be consistently reliable. The artists and tracks culled together for 100DSR are no exception, calling on some of the label’s brighter successes as well as dark horses to make a pretty vibrant collection of deep and minimal grooves. The full compilation plays back in mostly the same running order as the vinyl (I had actually purchased some of the singles separately before resorting to the full comp to get a few bonus tracks for the same inflated price of the missing installments flagged as “albums”) with only a few exceptions, and I think it’s smart for the label to keep that order in tact. Just as Delsin tends to often walk the line between techno, house, and “other” with its releases, this collection takes twists and turns along the way. Gerry Read’s “Granny Bag” is a welcome surprise, not sharing the same dusty lo-fi edge of his album and EPs but instead feeling a tad brighter and synthier. There are some pleasantly more downtempo tracks, like the melodic classic IDM of CiM’s “Way Station,” the half-speed plod of Ross 154’s “Moon FM Desire,” or the hazy ambient interlude that comes courtesy of Bnjmn. Several artists flex their techno muscle with some no nonsense dancefloor techno tracks, including Mike Denhert’s banging “Passenger,” the Warehouse Mix of Claro Intelecto’s “Heart,” Area Forty_One’s “Supervoid.” A clean feeling of Detroit nostalgia comes through on Convextion’s “Verna” or D 5’s “Stem Cell.” My personal favorite is toward the front; Unbroken Dub’s “Spacing” is spacious and aspirational, soaring over an even pulse with distant bells and shimmering pads. Another real personal highlight is Delta Funktionen’s “Petrol,” a booming distorted electro-bass track that takes its time working up to an ominous stride. A Made Up Sound’s remix of “Rear Window” is the jerkiest track here, landing slightly out of bounds of most of the rest of the comp (which makes sense given that it’s one of the few previously released tracks here), sounding closer to Delsin’s “-e” series of 12”s more than some other cuts here, but paired well with Herva’s “Radio’s Mutterings” as a one-two punch in the middle of the tracklist. Wisely, the compilation ends with John Beltran’s “Return to Nightfall,” a track that’s far more dancefloor friendly than most of his last outing for the label but which also synthesizes so many of the disparate, strong sides of the label’s aesthetic, combining elements of techno, house, IDM, and that elusive “other” with his signature panache.

The whole collection is well worth a listen, traversing a fairly broad amount of terrain relatively swiftly and offering plenty of quality tracks to support its already reputable line-up.

Buy it: Delsin | Boomkat | Bleep | iTunes | Amazon