Monday, 30 March 2009

“Foma is a lovely, multi-stylistic display of the new generation of sample-delic + electronic producers happening world-wide"

Bedroom beat morpher, Lukid, follows up his 2007 debut ‘Onadon’ with ‘Foma’ on the well established, and increasingly vital Werk Discs record label. Traversing the landscape of late night sojourns and the moods of a dawn breathing out sun rays, ‘Foma’ has a surprisingly restrained approach in its composition and arrangement that belies an intricate depth and complexity, which unfolds under repeated listens. While electronic in its application of sounds, its organic ethos is evident as samples flutter haphazardly, loops roll out of time and bass lines morph and change pitch spontaneously, giving Foma a freedom and liveliness more commonly found in jazz records than electronic productions. ‘Fall Apart’ displays this approach, as tribal drum rhythms subtly shift time signatures, while a throbbing bass line grows rich in texture, rising to fuse with the rhythm before washing away underneath its changing patterns only to re-emerge later, rising again with stranger textures and a different purpose. An identifiable thread weaves through ‘Foma’, as dreamy sequence loops float over plunging cables of sub bass. This creates a balanced contrast between the airy, early morning lucidity that permeates the album and the weighted soul that lends it an exploratory, moody depth. The up-tempo ‘Chord’ provides a highpoint with its stepped, clicky beats, hypnotic synth loop and relentless, unpredictable bass line. However it is what is happening in between the drum rhythms and the low end frequencies that is where the magic occurs in ‘Foma’. The warmth, soulfulness and pure hypnotism created by Lukid’s manipulation of the samples, synths and pads at his disposal feels almost cosmic in its ability to yield the listeners soul. You can call it Post Hip Hop, Future Beats, IDM or Electronica, in the end none of that means shit, as ‘Foma’ is so unflinchingly honest. This is music to dissolve to (Richard Buck). 8/10

Norman Records Dig Actress Remix

This record left our Ant feeling happy

It took me a bit to work out what this Various Production "20" 12" was but I got it in the end so now I'm going to reward myself with something edible... Oh the record... It's two remixes. The first is by Actress and it's a deep house track with super hissy loud hi-hats and female vocal snippet sample. It sounds a bit fucked up but still flows. It's quite harsh and raw sounding especially on the top end. There's a sweet jazzy melody in there and the bassline is nice and round and sexy. One to drop to get the girlies on the floor before you warp their minds by dropping 'Nellie The Elephant' backwards at 290BPM while cutting into the Smiths refrain 'Hang The DJ'. Then all the girls start projectile vomiting on you and so you moon at them while downing a pint of Wild Turkey in one then throw the decks in the bin and then go home and mutilate yourself with a broken rusty coat hanger... (typicalSaturday night out for our Ant, that) Rustie does a remix of 'In This' on the other side. He keeps the grimey vocal and adds lots of his own sounds into the mix. I quite like this bloops and squiggle stuttering action everywhere. If you like his style then you'll be rinsing this plate. Brett digs the drum rush.

Mired in a miasma of fog, submerged rumbles contort to rise through jagged cracks in the industrial concrete. The trunks of passing trucks shake rattle-rattle with subwoof swells that cause arm hairs to stand at full attention. A palette of gray haze glazes the district over with an artificial sheen of Saran-wrapped grit. The digital junkyard awaits its daily shipment of crashed hard drives and cracked circuit boards: a reliquary of forgotten technology. Tethered telephone lines conduct melodies in the thick hum of electric air. Somewhere, off in the distance, a jackhammer jots encrypted notes as notches in rock. Welcome to Hazyville.

A muffled diva croons an indecipherable hook that resembles the word “Pecans” on the opener, “Again The Addiction.” From the jump, warbling underwater TurboGrafx tones suck you into their vortex with Freestyle vocal sputters and shuffling hi-hat stutters. A cold distance emanates as the track slowly thaws. Spastic, manic, and paranoid, it scores virtual reality high-speed chases through slick streets, blurred data racing past. “Ivy May Gilpin” comes equipped with the sway of a digitized rainforest, 808 congas tapping under echoing bird chirps, and slow-growing synth moss. If not for its adrenaline-paced rhythm, it might lull to relaxation, but as percussive layers mount, the tension rises toward the tree canopy. “Mincin” is a scraping metal-on-metal throbber that wears down ears like grating gears of a bulldozer. Both nervous and stirring, it rewards those who can escape unscathed by its jarringly rough edges.

This is the music playing at hovercraft assembly lines and robot weddings; mechanized emotion, carefully constructed by the human hand.

People call this dub-step. People call this Detroit. People call this wonky. Darren J. Cunningham, a.k.a. Actress, calls this Werk. 
The Werk imprint has provided Cunningham the forum to foster some of the finest forward-thinking, beat-driven movements out of the UK, with a roster that reps Lukid, Radioclit, and Disrupt. Some four years in the making, the fervently awaited Actress long-player dropped hot on the heels of the radical Zomby release, Where Were U In ’92? While Zomby garnered Werk Discs their deserved proppers from everyone and their glowstick-laden candy-raver moms, Actress barely blipped beyond the cliquish Boomkat radar. Not quite a full-blown felony, but at least a petty crime, as Hazyville is easily one of last year’s most slept-on electronic releases. Perhaps this U.S. release will change that.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Actress Blip

Video by Sam B and Davin. Processing visual by Matt Wade.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Aphex Twin drops Zomby

Reports came back pretty quickly that the Twin playlisted tracks from Zomby's now confirmed classic  "Where Were U In 92 ?" in the rave at Bloc Weekender.

What else is to be said but wow.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Where Were U In 92?

At the very end of last year, Zomby weighed in with an astonishing double-pack EP on Hyperdub. This was wonky (I’m STILL holding out for aquacrunk) in all its physically beguiling, futuristic impossibility - is sounded like a PlayStation attempting to dance to a dubbed-out Prodigy. This was (is) most definitely now. And then, simultaneously, he quickly super-glued the frames back on the doors that he had just booted in with this, his debut album on Werk, a seemingly straight ‘homage’ to rave culture. Some may have wondered what the proudly anonymous Zomby was up to. I certainly did.

Back in 2006, Rufige Kru (Goldie and conspirator) delivered their debut album after a decade of peerless singles. Despite his decidedly dodgy solo career, Malice in Wonderland (and what a title) felt like a triumph - a valiant attempt from the old guard to make good with contemporary drum’n’bass. Unfortunately, after a few weeks it fell from memory and I’ve not touched it since.

Maybe that’s the reason why it took me a while to getting round to actually hearing this and why it’s still getting reviewed everywhere. Why would you even bother with such an endeavour? Why did I get this SO wrong?

Where Were You in ’92? jumps straight in with 'Fuck Mixing, Let’s Dance'. It's all there - sirens, mentasm stabs, looped hyper-breaks, rave piano and chipmunk vocals. Every texture and every nuance is immediately recognisable, an instant memory rush. But, far from being a facsimile, it all ends up sounding a bit well, weird. Zomby treats rave the way early Young Gods treated metal. All the sound sources are perfect but it’s put together in a way that could only have been now. It’s not quirky or jerky, each song rolls and flows and punches the air but somehow what should feel like pastiche seems a million miles ahead of the aforementioned Malice....

Take the second tune, 'Euphoria'. Like every song on the album, it opens brutally, in the middle - there's no introduction and no separation between tracks. An ‘ardkore (hate that word) piano gravitates merrily over a looping vocal and more sirens (they’re everywhere) and while the former is as expected, it’s the latter two that are bizarre. The whoosh of wordless female vocal is so weirdly FX’d that it sounds like it’s attached to a cyber-whisk. It’s also right in your face, a mile of separation between it and the piano. Meantime, the air-horn clarion-call is cracked- sounds cassette sampled, feeling almost ancient in effect. It’s these little tweaks that make the project such a staggering success. All those old sounds and riffs become textures in the hands of a master craftsman and it becomes apparent that Zomby is the yin to Burial’s yang. Where the latter moves forward by embracing the melancholy of a temporary social carnival that can only be imagined, Zomby soaks in the futurism and redeploys it. Both fuck with memory - one haunted the other blissful.

There are references to Blade Runner and Baby D via the PlayStation, but where he revels himself is three quarters of the way through on 'Pillz'. It’s so massively off-kilter, an out-of-sync chip-riff with skewed R&B backing vocals before it suddenly drops into a breakbeat. It bears no resemblance whatsoever to anything that happened before mid-2008.

And with this knowing sleight-of-hand, Zomby proves himself to be as subtle as he is energetic. Where Were You in ’92? screws over your synapses, fucks with your memory and you can dance to it. A triumph in every respect.



Luke Blair masterfully tickled ears and hearts with his last release, (2007's Onandon) displaying artful poise and a real knack for crafting head-nodding wonders. His music drips with the kind of secretive static atmospheres that helped define Burial's sound, yet the style here is overtly more blunted – think the shuffling psychedelia of post-Dilla/Flying Lotus-style hip-hop. That influence is still apparent on this new record yet it's testament to the 22-year old's skills that he carves out a sound of his own, dotted with cinematic flourishes and intelligent use of samples but one still very much dedicated to the beat.

Being on Werk, bass figures heavily in the sub-inflected stylings on show, but its the deft embellishments that really make Foma worth checking out. The first couple of tracks set the mood with Ice Nine bringing a fizzing jazzy groove out from dark drones to meet a simple treated piano motif. The composition here is definitely of the less-is-more school, but interestingly nothing feels underdone. From the simple affecting nature of the opener, Lukid introduces another of his little trademarks on Raise the High Roof Beam which I'm going to refer to as the 'Bubble and Squeak' effect. It's pretty self-explanatory. His love for stumbling, looped progressions is also apparent and it's easy to draw comparisons with the downbeat sunshine of Elvin Estella's Nobody project.

Veto ramps up the funk with organs blazing and shuffling snares pulled straight from the Madlib book of beatmaking. Random stop-start interludes inject some playful spontaneity, but when the mood changes with a minute to go suddenly you're grooving underwater in a glass submarine watching the tropical fish flit by. Standout track Slow Hand Slap starts out all coy and swathed in static. As the beats build over the fuzz-bass, a smooth vocal loop drifts by, lightening the intensity and wrapping you up in cotton wool. Eventually a soothing two-note melody is layered perfectly over the top and the cumulative effect is hypnotically blissful.

It's important to note that listening to this album on headphones is deeply rewarding, all the little details that sucked you in the first time become even more woozy and beguiling. Wandering along in the swaying little bubble that Foma creates is not only highly recommended, its genuinely transporting. As the record continues, Chord takes an never-ending sustain and fuses it into a rolling broken-beat underpinned by some smooth bass textures and clicking rhythms. Foma stands alone being at once minimal in nature and grand in scope, yet retaining the beat-heavy focus that established the Lukid sound. Ultimately, it's a refreshing approach that succeeds far more often than it flounders. Recommended.