Thursday, 12 September 2013

Sasha - Arkham Asylum/Ohmna EP Review (1996)

Time to break my hiatus with a look at one of venerable old hand Sasha's EPs from his glory days in the 90s, when he was at the forefront of the "progressive" movement in Britain. This EP is fairly rare and hasn't been released digitally yet. In fact, this is the EP that spurred on my vinyl collecting habit because I assumed it hadn't even been released on CD, only to find out after delivery of a nice big 12" that actually, yes it had, I just didn't check properly. Nevertheless, it's a fine analogue recording on vinyl even with added crackles, and a pretty classic EP, released on the Deconstruction label in 1996.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Drifta & Subsonik - Turn the Page (2010) Free Single Review

This is a tune that's available gratis on Drifta's Soundcloud page, from way back in 2010. I'm blogging about it now because this tune is absolute mint, and you should have it on your hard drive. British artist Drifta has produced a fair few tunes that are on heavy rotation on my iTunes playlist, but American DnB producer and label owner Mark "Subsonik" Pettigrew is an even more frequently revisited artist for me. For both of them "Turn the Page", featuring Kaytee on vocals is a real gem of a song, and they've given it all of the things a good Trance'n'Bass tune needs in spades. Read my reasons why and hear the embed under the cut.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Lii - 4K (2013) Single Review

While I like talking about mainstream music on this blog from time to time, I actually find it more exciting when I get to looking at something that few others know about yet. Some pieces of music that I might never have even heard of were it not for a chance recommendation have resulted in albums and in some cases entire back catalogues of work for me get stuck into with relish. This isn't one of those today though, because drum and bass track "4K" is (I think) the debut single from Estonian singer Lii. It's enough for me to hope that it's only the beginning of a fruitful and exciting career, however.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Danny Darko & Dionne Lightwood - Visible (2013) Single Review

Here's a quick post giving my thoughts on this recent trancey/melodic dubstep single from Italian producer Danny Darko and British singer-songwriter Dionne Lightwood. I usually give a cautious welcome to the incursion of trance's most salient sonic identifiers, such as the big supersaw, epic breakdown and melodic arpeggios into other genres when they get used to the same effect as they are in my favourite genre. This is what makes Trancestep DnB such a big deal to me.

However I say cautious welcome, because some of these things are prone to abuse in trance and they're just as capable of being badly applied to other genres too. I feel that a lot of the trance-like dubstep that's appearing now, a movement spearheaded by the prominence of American producer Seven Lions and his prolific number of remixes, is falling into this trap, while also undermining some of the essential elements of the dubstep genre itself. If trancestep needs to have both the power and euphoric quality of trance and the speed and syncopation of DnB together to succeed, then any attempt at doing the same with dubstep needs to preserve the rhythmic element and groove provided by the syncopation and swing of the drums as well as the movement of the bassline. "Visible" is a track that doesn't quite manage this in my opinion.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Non-music blog - the fanboy backlash over casting Spider-Man's Mary Jane, and why it is wrong

I found myself having this discussion elsewhere on the web this week, and thought I may as well put my whole thoughts down here. I'm not a big comic book fan, in fact I don't regular read any at all, but superhero films are amongst my favourite action movies to see and I do take an interest in the upcoming ones. Sony's rebooted Spider-Man franchise (now The Amazing Spider-Man) has recently been extended to at least four films, and release dates for parts 3 and 4 have been announced for 2016 and 2018 respectively. This means that production under director Mark Webb has reshuffled some story and character elements around a bit even while shooting of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has already begun. One of those changes is the character of Mary-Jane Watson.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Decoder - Encrypted EP Review [1999]

Decoder is the stage name used by a UK DnB producer Darren Beale, sometimes solo and at other times in partnership with Mark Caro, also known as Technical Itch. Beale and Caro both have a fairly long history with the DnB genre going back to the early 90s hardcore era and Caro remains devoted to the genre today under his main alias. Beale however, as one of the three members of Kosheen, has produced a tiny number of DnB tracks in the last decade since the first Kosheen album, Resist. As a big fan of that album and the Drum and Bass portion of it in particular, I've recently gone on a crusade to dig through the earlier releases of Decoder prior to the band's formation. The Encrypted EP, from 1999 on Caro's Tech Itch Records, is a particularly good place to start - a double 12" release of four tracks, it includes two that are collaborations with Mark "Substance" Morrison, another Kosheen member and very frequent collaborator with Beale even before the band was formed. Released shortly before their linkup with singer Sian Evans, it's useful to draw some contrasts between these tunes and the unique direction they would later take.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Rameses B - Stones / Follow Me (2013) EP Review

Stones and Follow Me are the newest tracks from young upstart producer Rameses B from the UK, and his first release on Nu Venture records. This mini-EP follows a string of euphoric Drum and Bass and dubstep tracks that have made an impact on Youtube, through his own channel, the influential Liquicity promotion channel and the ever-growing Monstercat netlabel. Both tracks have his trance roots very prominently featured this time, combined with his characteristic respect for subtlety and atmosphere that make him stand out in a crowded field.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Florrie - Introduction (2010) EP Review

Florrie is the stage name of British singer-songwriter Florence Arnold, who first rose to the pop world's attention as a drummer. Doing session work in her late teens and eventually becoming in-house drummer for Brian Higgins' Xenomania songwriting and production team (a prolific hit factory, but best known for effectively being the creative brains behind Girls Aloud), Florrie struck out on her own as a solo artist in 2010. Florrie has played a long game up until now, avoiding any major label signings in favour of remaining independent and pursuing a less orthodox means of publicising her work - plenty of free releases, promotional work with fashion labels, and a strong internet presence. Introduction is the first of three complete EPs from Florrie and it can be downloaded gratis from her website.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

s/he - s/he (2011) Album Review

Occasionally I like to try something I've never heard of, and just stumble onto from some unexpected source. So it was that while looking at Flexstyle's BandCamp page I noticed a recommendation for s/he, a US-based duo whose album he described as "Some of the best electronic pop music you've ever heard in your life." Well, he knows his stuff, I thought to myself, so I gave in and listened to their self-titled (and only) album. Turns out that was a good decision, because while that may be high praise to live up to, this is indeed a class act of an album which in a less cynical and fad-obsessed world would deserve a major-label release.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

John B - Electrostep (2006) Review

John B has been around for a long time now, his first appearances doing darkstep on labels like Metalheadz being back in the late 90s. But since about 2001 his career has notably focused on pushing the drum and bass genre out of its rough and reese-heavy safe zone into more unusual territory, with multiple EPs and now three albums incorporating trance and electroclash elements into the genre. While in 2013 this might not seem all that radical, post DJ Fresh and his chart-conquering singles in the last two years which borrowed heavily from both of those sources, this was the early 2000s when Pendulum hadn't even come over to Britain with their stadium rock ideals yet. John B was sticking his neck out a lot, especially as the DnB scene frequently goes through periods of everyone trying to out-macho everybody else with the hardest and dirtiest tracks possible, and this was starting to occur at the time. While other heads reacted to this by jumping to the then more experimental and more sub-heavy vibe of early dubstep, John B drew on his other influences to spice up his sound. 2004's in:Transit was an album that combined a trancestep sound with darker more traditional DnB and played down his passion for synthpop and electroclash - two years later, this was to be completely inverted by Electrostep.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Seba - Identity (2013) Review

Seba is a very well-established name within the atmospheric and funky side of drum and bass. His mid-90s releases include landmark tune Sonic Winds, and later on he made excursions into more minimal dnb and trancestep. It's through the latter of these that I discovered him, after his collaborative tracks with Kirsty Hawkshaw and hearing his music played by John B, so I'm very much a new fan of Seba's music. Identity draws on his trancier side, his minimal influences from his work with Paradox, and a general all-round professionalism and attention to detail not always found in drum and bass. It is an album very likely to solidify my appreciation for him.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Artful Dodger - It's All About the Stragglers (2000) Review

If you're British, but you have only a vague idea of what UK Garage is, there's a good chance it's because of Artful Dodger. Their string of Top Ten charting singles from 1999-2001 managed for the first time to bring this underground club sound firmly into the pop world and give it an accessible flavour, downplaying the dark and the choppy tone favoured by others in favour of keeping the R'n'B influence to the forefront, and polishing the arrangements and production to a very high level. The two men behind the name in 2000 were Mark Hill and Pete Devereux, and It's All About the Stragglers was their only album, released at the end of 2000 just as the mood of the scene was beginning to shift in favour of what would eventually become grime.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Tritonal - Piercing the Quiet (2011) Review

I like a good bit of cheese now and again - as a blogger who wrote a recommendation for Lasgo's Some Things in the same article I praised Sasha's weird but wonderful Airdrawndagger and who likes Trance remixes of J-pop queen Ayumi Hamasaki, I assume this is probably obvious by now. I also don't like it when an artist wastes my time by making me endure two minutes of glitches at both ends of a ten minute track or throwing multiple near-facsimiles of the same song onto the disc, so with this in mind it's no wonder I think Piercing the Quiet is a hell of a fun album.