Ear Influxion

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

Ellen Allien: “Data Romance (TokTok Remix)” (BPitch Control 2001)

In combing through my old vinyl I’m falling in love with early Ellen Allien tracks and remixes like this one. There really was an odd magic to the convergence of techno, electroclash (or whatever you want to call it), electro, pop, italo, and IDM in really interesting and fresh ways. BPitch Control was really on the vanguard of that as far as I heard it, with nearly every single record being reliably great for years.

Nooncat: “Take a Deep Breath” (Treibstoff, 2004)

Plumbing through my stacks of vinyl to rediscover some of these early 00s tracks — it’s the period when I was buying up the most wax by far, so my collection is weighted heavily on minimal techno and tech house from this time period. I’m still a firm believer that good music doesn’t expire, so enjoy this rather nice track from Alex Meshkov.

Echaskech: Origin (Just Music)
Echaskech’s sound is lush and large, with a strident pace and full electronic arrangements that would make Apparat proud. Origin works well as a musical narrative in sequence, with crests and valleys in dynamics to match its moody disposition. “Scanners,” “Ash Fallen,” and “Metic” are each big, full of drama, swelling with grace and smoldering with a deep glow. “Paper Scissors,” by contrast, has an almost elegiac quality to it, with warbly melodic leads that recall the light haze of Boards of Canada amidst the crisper rhythm tracks that are more distinctly their own in sound. Some of the tracks have an epic feeling that recalls heavier handed acts like the Glitch Mob, but Echaskech’s sonic palette feels more delicate and harks back more to 2000-era beatmaking for me. That combination of intricate rhythmic detail and emotive, evocative melodic arrangements feels simultaneously like a throwback to IDM’s post-Tri Repeatae golden age and like a nod toward to emotive genre-mashing that artists like Apparat, Telefon Tel Aviv, and Trentemøller are exploring.

There are tinges of that flirtation with post-rock that an act like Tycho has also recently more fully embraced; “Anomie” closes out Origin with a more human touch of guitar over its aspirational arrangement. In writing, I find it hard to describe Origin without dropping names and other references, but rest assured that for me the result is far better and greater than the sum of its parts. From start to finish, it’s excellent. Instead of merely looking back at the grooves of the past, Origin seems to draw inspiration from there just as much as from the present, with an eye on the future.
Buy it: Just Music | Bleep | iTunes | Amazon

Echaskech: Origin (Just Music)

Echaskech’s sound is lush and large, with a strident pace and full electronic arrangements that would make Apparat proud. Origin works well as a musical narrative in sequence, with crests and valleys in dynamics to match its moody disposition. “Scanners,” “Ash Fallen,” and “Metic” are each big, full of drama, swelling with grace and smoldering with a deep glow. “Paper Scissors,” by contrast, has an almost elegiac quality to it, with warbly melodic leads that recall the light haze of Boards of Canada amidst the crisper rhythm tracks that are more distinctly their own in sound. Some of the tracks have an epic feeling that recalls heavier handed acts like the Glitch Mob, but Echaskech’s sonic palette feels more delicate and harks back more to 2000-era beatmaking for me. That combination of intricate rhythmic detail and emotive, evocative melodic arrangements feels simultaneously like a throwback to IDM’s post-Tri Repeatae golden age and like a nod toward to emotive genre-mashing that artists like Apparat, Telefon Tel Aviv, and Trentemøller are exploring.

There are tinges of that flirtation with post-rock that an act like Tycho has also recently more fully embraced; “Anomie” closes out Origin with a more human touch of guitar over its aspirational arrangement. In writing, I find it hard to describe Origin without dropping names and other references, but rest assured that for me the result is far better and greater than the sum of its parts. From start to finish, it’s excellent. Instead of merely looking back at the grooves of the past, Origin seems to draw inspiration from there just as much as from the present, with an eye on the future.

Buy it: Just Music | Bleep | iTunes | Amazon

Survival Research Laboratories: “October 24, 1992 Graz, Austria” (An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music, Sub Rosa)

It’s as if every cartoon you never saw joined forces to completely terrorize you. This track appeared on Sub Rosa’s An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music toward the turn of the millennium, the first of a series that only recently concluded with its seventh installment. The original chapter includes SRL industrial contemporaries Einstürzende Neubauten alongside more traditionally legendary avant garde composers like John Cage, Pierre Schaeffer, Edgar Varese, and Iannis Xenakis.

Marina Rosenfeld / Warrior Queen: “Hard Love” (P.A. / Hard Love, Room40 2013)

I’ll admit that I was thrown off by Warrior Queen’s presence on Marina Rosenfeld’s album last year; her voice and spoken word style lent an extremely different quality that is far out of bounds of Rosenfeld’s sometimes otherwise understated sound experiments. But even though I had trouble embracing it as a full album (which is why I hadn’t posted about it here previously), there’s something striking about how odd the combination of influences and sounds is nonetheless…

Bolder: Hostile Environment (Editions Mego)
Bolder is a collaborative effort between Peter Votava (Pure, Ilsa Gold) and Martin Maischein (Goner, Heinrich at Hart) that continually dodges expectations over the course of these six tracks. Being somewhat familiar with the abstract sounds of some of Votava’s repertoire, Bolder is surprisingly accessible, with opening track “Sinking Cities” feeling as though it crawled out of the dark space between dub and Tri Angle gloom (Haxan Cloak, Balam Acab). But not all of Hostile Environment sounds like that, which is why this mini-album is interesting to me; the best way to describe it is to give a blow-by-blow of its track sequence. “Morbid Funk Ride” lives up to its name with a little swagger to its rhythm section, swinging in time while bulbous fat synths squirm under the surface, channeling the disembodied funk of Throbbing Gristle at their most infectious. Fans of Pure won’t be surprised by the element of white noise and texture that colors the track, washing over like a tide halfway through. “Deep Cuts” changes the game up considerably with its looping squeezebox tones and grinding post-dubstep synths, all set to a gloomy, plodding rhythm track that would make Raime proud.

"Extraterrestrial Deactivity" recalls the digital dirges of Senking’s latest for Raster-Noton, spacious and crisp and dark, like dark electro that’s playing back at 1/4 speed, again channeling that spacious feeling of dub without any of the warm or fuzzy associations one might bring to that genre. "Residuality" is another curveball, a beatless excursion into more freeform noise, recalling the experimental edge of Votava’s alter egos or the blistering rawness of recent material from Emptyset (not to mention vintage Mego). Oddly, it’s one of the real highlights of the set, emphasizing the duo’s knack for sculpting raw sound without obfuscating it through any rhythmic trends. The mini-album rounds out nicely with the amalgamation of sounds that comprise "Passive Aggressive," touching on elements of spacious IDM, dub, and more; its rhythm section has a heavy-handed reverb that booms with gravitas as other elements support it to completion. The tension between its treble chorus of drones and a wobbling, skittering mid-range layer of synths reinforce the unusual dynamic of the entire release, often side-stepping expectations and combining references in interesting and new ways.
Buy it: Boomkat | Bleep | iTunes | Amazon | Experimedia 

Bolder: Hostile Environment (Editions Mego)

Bolder is a collaborative effort between Peter Votava (Pure, Ilsa Gold) and Martin Maischein (Goner, Heinrich at Hart) that continually dodges expectations over the course of these six tracks. Being somewhat familiar with the abstract sounds of some of Votava’s repertoire, Bolder is surprisingly accessible, with opening track “Sinking Cities” feeling as though it crawled out of the dark space between dub and Tri Angle gloom (Haxan Cloak, Balam Acab). But not all of Hostile Environment sounds like that, which is why this mini-album is interesting to me; the best way to describe it is to give a blow-by-blow of its track sequence. “Morbid Funk Ride” lives up to its name with a little swagger to its rhythm section, swinging in time while bulbous fat synths squirm under the surface, channeling the disembodied funk of Throbbing Gristle at their most infectious. Fans of Pure won’t be surprised by the element of white noise and texture that colors the track, washing over like a tide halfway through. “Deep Cuts” changes the game up considerably with its looping squeezebox tones and grinding post-dubstep synths, all set to a gloomy, plodding rhythm track that would make Raime proud.

"Extraterrestrial Deactivity" recalls the digital dirges of Senking’s latest for Raster-Noton, spacious and crisp and dark, like dark electro that’s playing back at 1/4 speed, again channeling that spacious feeling of dub without any of the warm or fuzzy associations one might bring to that genre. "Residuality" is another curveball, a beatless excursion into more freeform noise, recalling the experimental edge of Votava’s alter egos or the blistering rawness of recent material from Emptyset (not to mention vintage Mego). Oddly, it’s one of the real highlights of the set, emphasizing the duo’s knack for sculpting raw sound without obfuscating it through any rhythmic trends. The mini-album rounds out nicely with the amalgamation of sounds that comprise "Passive Aggressive," touching on elements of spacious IDM, dub, and more; its rhythm section has a heavy-handed reverb that booms with gravitas as other elements support it to completion. The tension between its treble chorus of drones and a wobbling, skittering mid-range layer of synths reinforce the unusual dynamic of the entire release, often side-stepping expectations and combining references in interesting and new ways.

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