Ear Influxion

Various Replicas: VA7 (Various)
Various Production: Shed / Opus / Worse / Rush (Various)

Just as they originally surfaced several years ago, Various Production continue to quietly release tracks and EPs as isolated stand-alones. Here’s a round-up of a handful of their releases over the last year or so… “Opus” is a bit closer to what fans of the project’s 2006 album, The World Is Gone, might expect.

It’s anchored by a languid beat and a tiny, percolating acid bass phrase, but it’s mainly about the prolonged tension of its drones and an airy female vocal.

"Shed" feels more distinctly of the moment, with its clipped delivery of breakbeat patterns and references to drum & bass without ever fully falling in line. It’s much more musically exciting to me compared to "Opus"; its skittering, manipulated beats and patterns turn the jungle / drum & bass resurgence on its side in a way that’s distinctly different from the slowed down style of Modern Love or Andy Stott releases.

The collective’s offering, “Worse,” reminds me of the fun spirit of Millie & Andrea’s Daphne 12”s (some of which appeared on their recent Drop the Vowels album on Modern Love), mainly in the sense that it piles on references to all sorts of dance music trends without being fully rooted in any one of them. There are rave stabs, deep brown-sound booms, James Brown samples, and a truly fantastic ping-ponging between swing time and ordinary sixteenths. Side-stepping the usual anonymous umbrella of Various Production slightly is the VA7 EP which comes credited to Various Replicas; no doubt the name change signifies some shift in personnel behind the music, because the sound is fairly different. The most immediately dancefloor compatible track of the bunch is “12seven,” a really slick hybrid of current trends, including a staggered kick, jaunty syncopation, and effective use of samples. Its house kit gives it a dancefloor compatibility that many of VP’s other tracks don’t necessarily have, so it’s probably my pick for the best of the litter. Its slightly disorienting refrain of repetitive synth sounds reminds me of some of Villalobos’s more blissed out early tracks (“Panpot Spliff” on Perlon comes to mind). On the flipside, “Key” is more downtempo and dense, a moody electro-R&B crossover instrumental. Its crisp claps provide a nice contrast to the reverberated pads and synths that otherwise characterize it, a handsome accompaniment to the much more upbeat A-side. The Rush single has two tracks instead of being a one-off, so it already feels more diverse. “Rush” is quite different from all of these others, with a breathy female vocal and a jaunty arrangement that seems to fuse footwork with 2-step and garage sounds. Its flipside, “01110100-01110010-01110101,” may contain the least memorable song title of recent past, and yet it’s somehow deceivingly infectious as a chorus. It slows the beat down into more of a trip-hop sort of groove, though its synthy arrangements still feel fresh. Each of these offerings is interesting in its own way, like facets on a complex gemstone, showing off different strengths and shades and luminescence. 

Buy: iTunes | Boomkat | Bleep

Stars of the Lid: “Down 3” (The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid, Kranky 2001)

For at least a full year, my roommate at the time and I would crank SOTL’s Tired Sounds album on high volume to help fall asleep (we shared an open loft storefront near a busy street in Chicago at the time). As a result, there is indeed something drowsy about hearing these tracks now, though I no longer use it as a sleep aid but rather reveling in its ambient splendor. “Down 3” is a bit of an odd man out on the double-album, but it’s no less great. One of my favorite albums of all time.

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