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IlluminatedNoir
A space for your own headspace, a space to relieve and re-live.
Music from the new world, complimentary to the old.
You tell me what you wanna see and I'll see if I have it in me.

At least one full article every week (either self-chosen or on request) ranging from albums, music videos, new collabs, comeback news and everything else audio related.
Content frequency is open to fluctuation.
Dusky - Love Taking Over EP

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Artist: Dusky
Album: Love Taking Over EP
Record Label: 17 Steps*
Release Date: 14/07/2014

*This is only a review of the SoundCloud promo that was put up a few days before the official iTunes release so there is no mention of Expectationsunfortunately. Sorry.

Seeing as I’ve not done anything on this blog for I think 4 months now (might be wrong but my god it feels like it) I feel it’s time to start up again. With a promise made a few weeks ago to outcast a most likely jaded review of Future Islands' new album Singles, it’s my duty to deliver and that I shall do; in the format of 2 songs from a promo EP that only came out a couple hours ago. But let’s just crack on shall we?

Dusky has always been the little engine that could, and then did. With a back catalogue of absolute in-house bangers sent straight up top from the crypt, accustomed mostly to the resurfacing of material from unused SoundCloud accounts and 3-minute singles releases on local “up-and-coming” EBM net labels, this crush bass medley of twisted beats and classic deep is only another notch on the fundamental bedpost of house music currently striving in the UK as we speak. 

We kick off with the collection’s title track, Love Taking Over, a track which from the word go thrusts forth remnants of a familiar past, a virality from simpler times, and it’s that that allows it’s audience to applaud what has been made, and not merely what has been given. That’s the way my “turnt up” mind sees it anyway, and after the third or fourth spliff, it’s time to just shut the fuck up and listen, you know what I mean? I mean it’s a very calm and collected track that doubles within itself almost immediately, and almost unnoticeable at first. And once that first synthesized hit steps in to take it’s most honorary bow of debut, you could almost proclaim that “HEY, THIS IS JUST A RIP OFF OF KOVE”. Yet within deep house, does come genericism, and an oddly confident sense of homage over originality in most cases, but personally that’s why I love it. A new idea re-shaped and re-moulded (like that scene from Close Encounters with the mashed potato or whatever other microwaveable food product it was) to bring life to those self-indulgent, electro tech masterpieces of decades from a recent past, before they are forced to die out and retreat back to the bottom of the ocean again, up until they are needed once more for some retro reboot of a once-in-style dance craze, or backward-hat wearing trend or whatever it is at the moment. Also, it’s a very drum oriented track, and the way it consistently fluctuates in audible punch and pressure throughout really gets to me in a way that I respect the fact that I’m no good at that in production because, evidently, it’s very hard to pull off, especially in dance music. It almost pays ode to those 808 drum machines of the late ’80s we’ve all been taught to love and cherish over the years, and yet again even that’s just another pointed finger towards those who seem to manage lucidity and polish within productions that weren’t even designed for those areas or vibes in the first place.

In my professional opinion: I am fully aware this track could have been mixed better, as it seems a very traditional idea that somehow got lost in translation midway throughout and for that, it’s lacking. 
In my personal opinion: It really doesn’t matter, it’s a fucking tune. 

What comes to us next is of the same vain, the same texture, with only a few new colours added to the mix, ones which I feel were brought to fruition merely for the sake of variety within the culture. Within Inta, you can taste the Afrikaans sludge as it washes down your face, the subtle reggae vibes that divert you from speaker to speaker, the vibrations of liquid drum & bass without the drum & bass. It all makes very little sense, but it ends up making for one of the best tunes of the year in my opinion (the fellas who coined the term “jackin’ house” I bet are very happy). It’s fun, it’s blisteringly repetitive in a way that doesn’t send you into the third dimension, it captures the tastes of every man and woman who’s ever been to a warehouse rave or party before they started becoming boring and totally legal. It’s a good change of pace, not only from Dusky but from the whole UK bass scene that so widely recognises itself as still one of the most influential quadrants of modern electronic dance music, underground or commercial. Top marks for making an almost 6 minute song that encapsulates three different genres on rotation actually enjoyable on repeat.

Now, this is just a review of the SoundCloud promo that was put up four days ago on Dusky's official page, which you can listen to below



But the official release on iTunes came out only a few hours ago so, you know… eh eh eh.
You can download the EP here, including a third track I wasn’t able to mention entitled Expectations as it is only available on purchase, so go before that wanting feeling washes off of you.

EDIT: Expectations is now available for full stream from the embedded player above

James Hodson

A/T/O/S - A/T/O/S (Self-Titled)

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Artist: A/T/O/S
Album: A/T/O/S
Record Label: DEEP MEDi
Release Date: 03/03/2014

A Trust Of Struggle. Influence derived: The mystique of William Bevan’s own, personal Burial brain, the je ne sais quoi that Loefah first possessed back in 2004 and a clash of titans that fare well against subterranean spates from the undercarriage of P0gman's B-side collection. Blood filled paintball capsules of bass riddled, low end quivers murmur softly, as deep garage pleas from years after their time seize the golden moments in which to also be part of the action, and harsh vibes ellipse the norm.

This is A/T/O/S' first official LP release, believe it or not, as the dynamic party-of-two (Amos & Truenoys) enter the void with a respectable array of pure, bass, scrap metal shards, permitting we be left to your own devices with them on this one (and just like most revival dubstep recently escaping back into online realm, sub bass riddim plays judge from the sidelines). A release that suitably follows the industry standard yet still manages to disobey the guidelines, this self-titled menagerie of 13 (plus 2 short interludes) raises it’s fists in angst, ready to take power back from the likes of XFM, who act like they’re some sort of pivotal, anti-consumerist, pirate radio plot of the inner 21st century, disregarding the very real underground circuit of heavily internet-based, online radio. 

From the London underground/concrete jungle atmospherics that inhale the paint thinner from atop tracks such as Projectsand No Heart,to
daydreamers, hoping to strew a thousand diamonds across a blue blanket, within the sawtooth bellowings of Deep End, and surviving the malevolent acid trip along the way, a helping hand into Cosmos. A series of constantly uplifting and ironic “bass music” beats, ones that should be considered seriously for instrumentals, walk on egg shells in support of the female half of this pair’s expressions of malaise, a voice that could return lactic acid back into cold hands and frozen fingertips in a matter of seconds. One that never seems taken for granted too.

We see derivation of a more recent use of the bebop style-ee, the teeth of jazz sunk in strongly to the walls of both these creative minds. It lends it’s hand willfully, managing to test the waters on what is acceptable by jury, and what downright just won’t work. Well, it all works, whether it’s glitchy sub basslines drowning out our own thought processes to gems that could have now, come to think of it, quite easily sat gracefully next to some of the lesser known works from Katy B's 'On a Mission' album. Back to back, both Room and What I Need respectfully and seemingly successfully represent a nu-jazz sound now to the masses, whilst Hey, Roses, Paper and maybe even, you could say Variations seem to fix up and look sharp for their self-promoted tributes paid to the R&B vibe of early 2000 (Outkast's 'Speakerboxxx/The Love Below' album comes to mind with no hesitance) as a lot of that sinks it's teeth deeper into the tough skin of what these tracks are attempting to re-enact. Elsewhere, the rest of the album sees itself off to the shores of classic dub, the unintelligible poundings brought back to life through Run as a sci-fi smog suffocates unnoticedand borrowed time which Nowhere seems to eventually give us back,whilst the title track A Taste Of Struggle prides itself as a purposely, overly compressed specimen of halfway house, dividing up it’s winnings if the corner.

The first release from DEEP MEDi this year, let’s just hope the rest follow suit.

If you like what you’ve just read, and you like what you hear, and you happen to be in Antwerp on the 14th of March, then GET DOWN TO THE LAUNCH PARTY [hosted by DEEP MEDi themselves]

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Visit this link to purchase your copy today, whether it be FLAC (£8.99), mp3 (£6.99) or physical vinyl (£18.98). 
http://www.surus.co.uk/deep-medi-musik/

DEEP MEDi
A/T/O/S

James Hodson

Whitely - Phantasy EP (Limited Edition + Digital)*

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Artist: Whitely
Album:
 Phantasy
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: 10/01/2014

*A review not only about Whitely’s new EP release but also about the history of seapunk, chiptune and in general, the online scene.

We bake the cake - indie house, 90s dance, trap, bass, future, rave and possibly a little synth-pop revival, If you’ve ever introduced yourself or been introduced to this particularly close-cut phenomenon currently wandering the underground tracks of one-day-festival subcultures, open mic nights and the internet, then you should know how just beneath boiling pot the world of seapunk has become over the past few months, to say the least. 

A direct child of online viral infamy and, more specifically, social media integrated promotions, seapunk originated straight from the depths of those blasted popular networking sites we all know and love; Twitter, Reddit and especially, this one too. This one… yes, the one we’re on… right now. 

Being part of the UK chiptune scene myself, under the aliases of, first: Peroxide Cartridge then Thank Fuscia then Skin Walker, since 2010, I had a various shift of underground, close-cut fame and yes, of course, it is quite flattering, spending 7 years between 2006 to last year creating my own brand of 8-bit endorse spirituality met with the kind words of a very giving and supportive community, but it’s also quite unfulfilling when all you want to do is embark forwards, on less placid terms. I’m on hiatus now anyway, whilst concentrating on my hopefully feasibly, now commercially-wide project HODSON (which, hush hush, you can listen to by simply visiting http://soundcloud.com/thatmanckid) But anyway, I did a song under the new name for this EP, on request from the man behind it all, Tom Lowe (Whitely),which is partial to the reason why I’m reviewing this in the first place (as I’ve heard the entirety of it countless times now) but also because it’s a revelation. A revelation for the playlist nit-pickers who love a cross between late 90’s pirate radio golden oldie’s and the sweet revival of the music we used to listen to as kids, playing our Froggers and our Megamans and sometimes, appearing between the cracks, Mario. But I’ll let you find that out for yourself.

Our first instance of inspiration comes in the form of what could be an idea for a Japanese tattoo, randomly selected from an online word generator, with 青々. A barrage of jumping rhythm, assembling as the pluck of a bass answers the questions, and the impression made from a stamp similar to that of a steel drum carries us towards the start of our expedition. The gunshot that signals “go!” comes dressed as Phantasy, the title track, and if you aren’t confused as to why you’re now listening to :(, then I suppose I’m alone on that one, but what is up ahead is stronger than that of comparison, or trying to figure out, if you’re a first time listener, as to why anyone would listen to this. Either way, the eclectic build of white noise FX reversals and the stampede of what feels like four separate layers of kawaii, evidence points in the direction of an ode to the 80’s, and their almost laughable composition choices (as well as everything else, come to think of it) yet still holding that strict 90’s seapunk vibe true as true can be. The pounding of digitally manufactured kick drum samples met with the vibe of moist, lo-fi pads rising to crisp quicker than expected, and medleys of all the sounds you do expect, Phantasy really does drive home it’s point, the message it’s trying so desperately to get into our thick heads. It’s almost moombah sounding in areas, but always managing to return to contest harmonies of the outer spaces and lullabies from, oh I dunno, the garden of Eden? It’s difficult to put a stamp on exactly what seapunk is about, but I guess we’re still learning. 

An unorthodox, rawness of modern R&B flashes before our very eyes as we answer the door to Caribbean Sunset along with all of it’s unholy, sado-masochistic feelings of sunshine, lollipops, rainbows and everything that’s wonderful. And what we are privileged to be witness to is the first experience of Whitely’s strict talents on the famously ingenious LSDJ music cartridge, the many strands of Game Boy related blips and blops converted into pre-2000 party backdrops that he’s worked so ambitiously for. An absolutely beautiful composition, swinging side to side to try and find some purpose in life, an air horn exclaims and despite some lacking in production( as is always the case within any smaller industry) we kick off to a floor filling, 90’s rave anthem hit with a case of nostalgia. Those trance 16’s, those big beat 8’s, and the mean spirited nature of an 8-bit sound chip sent back from the crypt, not on it’s own accord. A real disco anthem that is much before it’s time, and it represents that proudly. What comes next though is not only one of the more commercially successful pieces that he’s pulled out of his back pocket in recent years, but also my favourite track from this glorious collection of over a dozen. I Am Yours, an arrogantly sidechained ladder skips across platforms as hard, high-ended kicks submerge the rest. Slow arpeggios that come into play every time the track itself seems to lose a bit of it’s pace. Represented as a legit festival beat, a beat made to cause disruption, one to close out the night. The portamento of silky fizzles interrupt abruptly, keeping within no time flow nor no regard for themselves, or anyone around them. There’s just no flow within this track, it is just a well thought out, technically complimentary piece of music that sets out to get people up from their chairs and into the arms of one of the world’s newest indie subcultures. Used by both Katy Perry and Azealia Banks, within fashion and already within internationally distributed music itself, the world’s not messing about. There’s also a remix by yours truly to this song, the one I mentioned before, one I did in the style of redundant hard dance. I’m not going to be big headed, so let’s just leave it at that… just check it out.


Arriving next, the theme song of a possible antagonist superhero’ sidekick who grew up to become a successful computer hacker, maybe something out of a game? Remember Me emotes primarily the calm derived from a restful tide off the coast of a beach in the Bahamas, or the Ganges, or Sri-Lanka? That’s relevant, right? A reassuringly smooth rendition of every personally powerful feeling you’ve gained from all of your small accomplishments in life, and roll them all into one and you’ve got this. Some D&B pitter patter, slowed breakcore snap backs and give the track it’s own groove upon a completely different scale detached from the rest of the album, not centering itself round yet more simple 4x4, acid house beats, but creating suspense in quick succession ready for the constantly activating array of drops and crashes and breaks and bridge solos. Undoubtedly, 110% chiptune elements hide behind the drapery, not becoming apparent until nearer the end of the track, to which we’re then fooled into believing we’re on a Japanese tour bus with Seacreatures (フランキーのために).An intro frighteningly similar to that of Phantasy on the subject of progression, but another nice intro in the form of content, original content leaving no reason to expect, but more to wait with attentive ears. What’s handed down to us is something similar in purity to that of Unicorn Kid’s ‘Tidal Rave’ material (and in this instance, that’s not an insult). It’s as if the synths are conversing with you, trying to describe themselves to you, and well-scribbled arped and cut one-hitters that turn away with their disgruntled smiles really push to make this song an epic. Off the coattails of notes elapsed plant us somewhere deep in the rainforest, with the rustle of wet leaves kissing the soles of our shoes and the water of dawn rains down and sparks something in you that you never wanted to admit before, but still can’t find the words for. It manages to stick by it’s roots, it’s retro plasma waves of energy that seemingly align planets yet still having the capacity to possibly become a commercial success, quite easily. A perfect symbol of Japanese culture and the effect it’s had on the rest of the world since it’s foundation

Ride Those Dolphins is up next, set to become the real Ibiza back-catalogue hit, with those steel drums pressing down hard on the tackle once more and echoes of dolphins survive the ever changing face of the arrangement itself. Reggae drums help give reason the rest of this songs motives, giving logic to generic EDM writing techniques and the simplicity that good electronic dance music can aspire to manipulate. Flutes and pitch bends stood side by side, in every octave, every flavour, every colour. What probably started out as an ironic stab at intuitive production, kind of dwelled on the fact that “this songs needs something more, just something but I can’t think of it” and alas. A really well-needed change up from the everlasting repetitiveness that is this genre, proving you can add pretty much anything you want to it and it’ll still come out sounding like liquid nitrous. Music to my ears. There’s two parts to this tune; one that focuses obsessively over the pick up of those drums over that one infectious piano roll and one that’s just - sub, sub, sub, sub, sub, sub, sub, sub. It’s a fairly subtle change that effectively takes charge in a matter of milliseconds, and it doesn’t actually seem out of place until you analyse it (like me that unfortunately has to). Even despite that, this song can truly take you to another plane of existence. Everytime you feel like you want to move away, get out to another country, get your headphones on and play this in a quiet room. I’m telling you, you’ll feel it. Or maybe that’s just the MDMA. Ah anyway, onwards and upwards.

Reminiscent already of the previous track Ride Those Dolphins, Coconut is another Hawaiian tropical flicked behind the ear. The rawest of all 8-bit melodies as of yet, clattering coated snares sit back and enjoy the ride behind this heavily dominated minimalistic score of party, house and a euphoric, rose-tinted-glassed flourish of personal opinion and debate. Very similar to everything we’ve heard so far, it does quite feel like there’s a certain decline going on as we wait intently for our next “exhibit A”. But undoubtedly, all these tracks are fun and elevate a certain sense of right and wrong: either you like it or you don’t, either you can respect it or you rate it down instantly. It’s a common sense thing, it’s music made to move you physically, not analogically. It also really does serve up a punch, you can’t deny that. I can’t wait to witness this hopefully in his set for Tokyo Chipped this month of March on the 20th, a Thursday, at Fab Cafe in Manchester, England. Next on the agenda is the ever so effervescent rendition of Zen Mantra's 'Fossils', suitably remixed as Whitely’s Ocean Side Mix. Lingering beams of light, portrayed through footprints of the original, the vocal serving as the perfect blueprint, a compass to send you the right way in times when this song will inevitably cause you some form of distress. A hi-pass filter finally serving as good use, in an effectively dominant way, helping us to find our feet whilst we’re still figuring out exactly what’s going on here. I do respect the manner in which he kept his distance throughout this though. He could have butchered a perfectly good song, like when Henry Homesweet used to re-do Frankmusik in a way that lost all meaning to the underivative. It plays both sides, it manages to stay respectful whilst also making sure people remember the specific USP that Whitely holds as an artist enough to remember him by that specific. Encompassing everything we’ve heard up to now, thrown full force into the bonfire that is the only personal remix on the EP, which by the end you wonder “why hasn’t he done more?”. 

The glitches repercussing from the hardware now over 30 years old, the cries of these machines calling out names, drowned out by these almost convincingly majestic pieces from the piano, existing now in the world of Tropics. Clucks from the back end rise up and overthrow whatever present, leaning closer, solemnly, to that inevitable drop we’ve now all grown aware of. Slow in feeling but strong in it’s ability, pushing out all the bass you could possibly muster from a sound that wasn’t even meant for it in the first place. Made sure, it really manages to get you moving. With everything just turned down that little bit, calm yet motivated and some of the production on this (probably due to simply having a clearer mix to work with) serves as a huge improvement in both style and aesthetics. Could be a bit of french disco, could be a bit of big room, could even be taken directly from the catacombs, from which genres like mutant trance, goa, psy and most commercial IDM worked so hard to cultivate. A big tune that manages to sneak through into the mix, without a trace, is what we have next, known formally (and normally) as Paradise Island. A distorted extension of that deep triangle break technique used in alot of retro music over the past few years, decades in some cases. The demoscene has alot of it. It carries itself well, decrees to be somewhat of an eye opener, bringing a less airbrushed, less filtered, post-edited sound and just giving it to you like it is. How you’d hear it improvised, live, with stages set, that’s exactly how it is. Even though choices of weapon are becoming a tedium, the repetition is still strong and the general arrangement is pretty much foreseen, it still manages to bring you to a point where you question whether or not this is something you’ve heard before, because if you’ve been listening in all it’s entirety up to now, like me, it sort of makes you feel as if you know something about it now as an artform too. 

We crack on to the final track of this self-inflicted therapy session, Transcending. This one, in my eyes, is the one that stands out as the sore thumb. I’m not saying that aiming any negative connotations at the piece, it is a good piece of work. But it throws itself at you with no warning, and that’s what makes you decline it’s move on you, but I say this concerning only within the first listen. It’s like reading a book when you’re not really concentrating, or trying to listen to someone speak to you whilst you’re lay in bed, watching South Park, getting high and wondering if it’s worth actually getting up just for a bag of Quavers (isn’t that something people do? I read that somewhere, that people do that). But it is a very good track, giving you the eye from across the room. It’s a very deep seeded sound, that keys the proverbial car with it’s honorary logo, biding it’s time so to bring back those Nintendo infused wails, seeking out, crying for attention, actually conjuring up one of the most emphatic arrangements this album sees funnily enough. Non-transferable. Xyloid also puts his two cents in, producing something that the likes of reggae buffs and trip-hop bass heads as well as chiptune enthusiasts the world over will rush to Mediafire for, to hopefully find a working link. A nice, dark jazz essence falls safely into to place as the beat stops to tie it’s shoelaces, utilizing technical pinch harmonics, keys and some organic, raw drum slaps to push this tune back into the clutches of familiar territory, back into a party anthem set to build bridges between pill heads and straight edge alike. 

If you didn’t know what seapunk was before, well now you have a slightly increased sense of accomplishment, and wider knowledge of things you wouldn’t have sought out yourself.

Thanks for playing.

Purchase Phantasy from the official Bandcamp
Only £4.50 for the digital download! 14 impressionable wonder works that will hopefully stand the test of eternity, for years to come at least.

Visit Whitely on SoundCloud to keep yourself up to date with the going’s on, new releases and everything else.

James Hodson

Surfer Blood - Pythons

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Artist:
 Surfer Blood
Album: Pythons
Record Label: Warner Bros. Records
Release Date: 11/06/2013

The sun sets on a very familiar feeling after ending my first initial listen of summertime hit Demon Dance, one that resonates strongly vibes of American-pop subtleties and angered crust undertones (one of Warner Brothers’ finer investments too me thinks). Managing to find solace within the mainstream circuit, amalgamating swift uppercuts of things that resonate much, much harder, Surfer Blood are no strangers to the limelight as of recent. After marking their territory in 2009 with their debut single ‘Swim’, which garnered positive acclaim early the year after, becoming the poster boy for their also debut album, it’s no real surprise this gaggle of east coast rockabilly’s proceeded with the leaps and bounds as quick as they did.

Assigned as the first track in which to rev up the levs inside of this orchestrated maze known above as Pythons (and the world over for that matter) an upbeat mirage of in-and-out, multi-commercial guitar conflicts accompanied with the distant cries of anarcho-punk watching on in dismay, Demon Dance really can’t be flawed. 

The rest of the tracklist continues in true Palm Beach fashion with uninterrupted flow meandering throughout, that same reoccurring movement as body language is pretty much now magnetic to the music in question, encased with few individual twists,
 that easy-listening aura becoming more uncompromising each time we delve a little deeper, bit-by-bit. Which brings us to Gravity, a track that exhales softly the same ringing to the same listening ears. As evidence has shown already, these boys enjoy paying homage, and their respects, to those breakdown sounds of the 90’s, a culture that crossed over grunge and Brit-pop nearer to the end of their century (evolving into those bands of the millennium, that fall under no specific category really - consciously anyway). Despite a lackadaisical few opening seconds, which subsides previous expectations by utilizing the injured strokes of party-emo riffs, we return. As if you’re almost listening to a post-2005 Weezer support act and reflections of pop-punk bridge solos will interfere every now and again, this does not deter from the simplicity and genericism this song possesses. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn’t, yet I feel this time it definitely does work. There are a few switch-ups that transition quite nicely, and a few that just seem to repeat. Yet recovery efforts are well-rewarded as the use of clear, fluid, blameless distortion bites back the majority of the song. There’s a particularly nice break that makes itself known at around 1:58, which pretty much sums the song up for me. It becomes the reason as to why I remember this track for what it is: not much but not exactly nothing. That same electrostatic squawking plays us out, whilst we proceed to our next bubba lullaby entitled Weird Shapes. A power ballad beneath the surface, a piece that sounds like something The Ataris just haven’t quite got round to recording yet, it does confess one promising start. Just a feel good beat, betrayed by feelings from the gutturals at unscheduled intersections, the mix between sunny day and dark room answers our earlier prayers and you can now enjoy the start of what is seemingly an unrelenting release. A really, really good song, battered drum shots help ease us in and licks that play catch-up with one another, riffs that attack like sticks in sand. Sharp retorts portray screams of dismay, as vocal backing helps lead us to the dark side of open mindedness. It just works, it just fits in all the right places and sits there comfortably, as attentive down strokes fire back at us every time they feel we may be losing interest. And then suddenly, end. 

The incessant twinkling of an instrumental; reverent, I Was Wrong interjects as our first taste of melancholy, and almost at the half way point, mind. The apology in possible eulogy, choreographed in order to get you off of your self-proclaimed ivory tower and into a state of wonderment. Whilst set to prepare the troops, to join forces with the creativity and control of possible movie scenes? I don’t know, but it would be a suited fit, that’s for sure. Contemplating the decisions it makes between slow ballad and dreary surf rock, it doesn’t surprise yet more satisfy with it’s every giving grip it puts on you. Oh and those screams are back as well (not the one’s in your head, just FYI). One droning fizzle out of frets held and we come out of the other side onto the plains of Squeezing Blood. Upbeat in nature and optimistic on several different plateaus, speedy drum licks spread behind a monsoon of delicious stringed waves, that “teenage dirtbag” impression John Paul Pitt’s so willfully manages to reanimate, on the forefront’s cusp. And that’s quite a point. After the first few tracks sink in, you come to this. A track that emotes quite a few familiar flavours from over the past, say, 15 years or so? And maybe it’s the fact bands also take after their heroes too, maybe it’s the impact past success stories have on the mindset of an artist in the industry or maybe it’s the fact that legendary Gil Norton was assigned the job on this album. Past producer of Pixies, Foo Fighters, James, Feeder and so many other iconic, coming-together’s of superstars the world over, Gil hit the nail on the head yet again with Pythons. However, some may say it’s riddled a fresh sound with various past puzzle pieces from bands who were set for international, platinum immunity from day one, that have resided within the business for decades now, (as Gil has been producing music for big, shiny bars of gold even as far back as Echo & The Bunnymen). A powerful stride of audio muscle performs Chinese whispers as we see this track out, seemingly curtain calling just as the song sees itself fit for closure, an eruption of vibrato on shorter strings is the one to call it a night. Another familiar hit, not in the same league as Demon Dance but still a pretty popular vote is Say Yes To Me as it’s residual indie rock, synth-pop sugars saturate the ever rising past 15 and a bit minutes and dissolve with another score you could see yourself watching on the big screen, or on YouTube in 12 part-separated videos like normal human beings. 

Not one of my favourites, as I suppose I’ve heard this sound one too many times on bands like The Strokes, The Cribs and pretty much any band that could’ve not used the ‘The’ in their name and it still have the exact same effect. But I can see as to why it would be seen as a big hitter, it does go in hard and it does have an infectiously catchy hook on you early on, which to begin with isn’t even the hook intended. And now we’re here, as we say goodbye to our new, ol’ faithful  and move forthward into the territory of Blair Witch, one which takes a few steps back to recycle the momentum first, reversing into outputs of ballad, harmony and definitely some level of unneeded stereo expansion. But it’s of no importance, because again even though I can point out the flaws, I still enjoy the song, as a song. A song that’s dialogue needs no assurance, working out as a perfect fit for the voice that represents this team of one-day-on-their-way jet setters. More simplicity, more genericism, but also more generosity, towards the audience that does not want to think, but more to be entertained.

Which brings me to our next track, known to it’s peers as Needles And Pins. Brings back to me memories of early works of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik, reviving other much earlier material, untouched by commercial sticky finger, sent from the likes of Green Day, Dashboard Confessional, Jimmy Eat World, all those “sick tunes” you always listen to but can never place a name to. Wavy, hallucinogenic rings of the cosmos seize your ability to think analytically about things for the time being, enveloping the relentless turmoil you feel once you realise just how addictive this song can be whenever your happy thoughts turn to dull ones. Laughingly pessimistic in tone and slow dance crazy with it’s fluttering melody sat in the back row somewhere, you notice much more than just a collaboration of instruments replying to your consumerist demands but more that you’ve heard this song before, maybe it was playing in that vintage shop the other day or maybe you found it in your Last.fm related artists stream, who knows? But you definitely feel as if you owe it something. A listen, at least. I don’t know about you but I refused to continue my quest until I’d played this track again at least 4 more times, and that I did. Goosebumps and spine shivers are inclined to us once we are exposed to the sullen, teeth-grinding, almost Charlatans-like induction of Slow Six into this long play, hall of fame that is now our ninth inning. Metallic structure, sludge demeanor, as if strings have snapped and skill sets are being misrepresented, confident lyrical messages non-hesitantly balance out the carry on spirit Slow Six picks up and finishes the race with. More trippy, lagging sounds to bring our blood pressure down a bit before it’s home time, despite two interludes that make themselves relevant, and that pay tribute to the culture of non-malicious circle pit tangles, referencing influence from the sound that bands such as Chiodos, Fear Before The March Of Flames or possibly even The Fall Of Troy have acquired in their own careers.

A generous swing from one branch of the palm tree to another, until there’s nothing left to grab on to, for it’s time to finish off the album (with a track suspiciously similar to that of one of The Isley Brothers’ most popular hits, you’ll know when you hear it). And as this entire album has already expelled every basic trope and convention set to profit within the teenage market today, what better way to say au revoir than with a number seemingly based around one of the supposedly most anxious times of every kid’s life, Prom Song sounds like something Marty McFly should’ve scrapped ‘Johnny B. Goode’ for. Except it shows up in very different circumstances and sends us packing, along with our array of doubts, as it acts as a sort of encore more than just a finale. A truly magical piece, incorporating dabs of more relevant fixtures (in the form of rhythm and blues mostly, but you can decide on the rest) that question whether or not what we’ve just been listening to for the past half an hour was really what we now think it is.

Well, was it? Ten tracks simultaneously punching in for their shifts and putting in some hard graft by the end. Personally, despite all of it’s predictability, I did enjoy what I listened to here, and I’d shamelessly, secretly hate you if you told me you disagree. Echoes from the past, here to get the sounds of today into fighting shape.  

You can buy Pythons from:
Amazon UK
Amazon US

James Hodson

White Manna - White Manna (Self-Titled)

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Artist: White Manna
Album: White Manna
Record Label: Holy Mountain
Release Date: 12/06/2012 (ref. Bandcamp)

Hidden just below the surface of 2012’s unknown charter, and as withering voices begin their escapades surrounding this psy-soul circus of nu-grunge, garage rock and, what you could easily class as, typical Iron Butterfly influences, lies a band of brothers trying to solemnly etch their way onto the leaderboard of California’s top 10.  

We enter willfully seven minutes and twenty-three seconds initially out of promise, introducing a combination of genres that will prove they can still very much stand the test of time. A softcore spread of sludge metal, like the angels that survived treacherous Crowbar and more recently Iron Witch shows, blend with the aromatic spices, slightly, mid-way of the Madchester music scene and indicate lucid and explicit dreams of classic, indie revival influences, suggesting maybe bands like Bauhaus, Fugazi, Pixies and even young-bucks Kasabianhad played some part in putting this team’s sound together. Acid Head persuades you, forces you, and dictates your decision to continue. With it’s ability to keep your intrigue drawn, that maybe the next few tracks may untie cryptic clues that lie beneath the kick-off, awaiting disappointment and for it to be proved wrong becomes it’s own trepidation. It’s constant flow and movement aid our listening ears to become susceptible to endings, yet as we are so transfixed in it’s already steadied movement, we become unaware that Keep Your Lantern Burning has taken to the stage and has already kickstarted in fifth gear.

For the sake of suspicion already being aroused, aware of that key indie element once sneaking up behind us has now thrust itself forward with full disclosure. The pace stimulated, the elements heightened, somehow new senses pick up fresh, new power chords and seem to react at a much more alleviated level. Vocal shots effected by echo and filtration now stand tall, stand proud as if they’re being squeezed through a megaphone. At least the distortion is there. Hurling electric-bugaloo at their audience, as if the whole thing was set to repeat but instead set to lightspeed. You could even say it shames it’s grunge roots, and decides to value more a punk intensity, exhibiting variety to it’s complete potential. Once the journey has reached it’s half way point, members of the forgotten Woodstock circle return, as if they agreed “fuck this” and decided to cover a Wolfmother song instead. A positive in my eyes. This becomes a classic case of the overextended-outro technique we’ve all learned to love and nurture over the years. A drawn-out, reverberating mirage of self-held tingles and growls from the shaman. Then, a perfect transition into the rock-pop nature of Mirror Sky electrifies surprise yet again as another genre is thrown into the mix. Strictly modernized, strictly commercial, the muse of it all appears to almost submit itself to the powers that be, but still applies itself to the White Manna ethic. Squawks from the jungle meet at a gridlock with fret sweeps and kick hard, back into the rawness. Whilst we return to inaudible mumblings of a frontman, as each 4x4 applies for it’s dream job, all comes together nicely. The shortest of all the songs on this album, meets it’s fate on a level playing field and seems to just agree to a dull end, seemingly out of nowhere. 

But alas, for a masterpiece is upon on. A work of art that justifies every use of sampling ever concerned, every use of digital audio and post-production ever utilized. Every soundtrack to every movie that’s ever made you cry, or relate yourself to some form of emotion. Similar to that of what Sunn O))) establish with their dark, drone, theremin-manipulating atmospheres, the wait is worth it. Oh and it is a wait. Ransacking beauty in order to be replaced merely with just noise, the resemblance of each scream and each wisdom giving, prayer-like plea for help provides us with a treasure map to which we must find exactly where to dig. Just before the four minute mark, the haze that has overcast our thought process up to now, our vision into this vibrant, colourful land of windy terror, screeching spokes and the pity of what could be a woman scorned, is suddenly lifted. Thrown to the wolves of country twangs and a groove similar to any interlude on any CD brought out on Reprise Records during the 90’s, Don’t Gun Us Down escapes that rebel yell attitude, almost catering to a more open-minded audience accustomed to the likes of Lou Reed or maybe even some aspects of The Doors collaborative works. Maybe the production quality is supposed to be ironically dusty, and perhaps it is a derivative work for the sake of homage, but you can’t deny the originality the track itself gladdens. It’s also the first time, and only time in my opinion, out of all five of these tracks that we actually pay attention to the individual solos conducted, and what holds so true to the genre it is complimenting so well (in this case anyway). At certain points, you forget exactly how in sync you are with all of what is happening, and just seem to get lost in those awe-abiding pitch bends that somewhat blend out all that is occurring behind the scenes. Hallucinating wouldn’t be far from the truth when experiencing this track in it’s full and tantalizing glow. 

Finally, we land alongside Sweet Jesus,an almost identical vibe to the previous but with a much more vigilante, emotive ridicule, as if it’s mocking all those early punk aesthetics: post-Rotten, pre-Rollins. Immediately, once that first note hits, I was expecting a Tears For Fears/Echo and The Bunnymen type ode, which would adequately fit as the much awaited fifth genre switch, one which lingers with you throughout. But what is apparent, is that these boys really want to go out with a bang, and once the violence dissipates and the ruckus comes to a full stop, we’re met gracefully with a beautiful face-off between string and percussion, witnessing the battling axes try their best to out best each other whilst, in the back drop, drum patterns act as referee. The chit chat of band members loosely heard over instruments emulating whale sound draws us to our conclusion, and salutes us until next time.

Thankfully, we find our answers.

If you want to buy this self-titled release in all of it’s glory, visit http://www.holymountain.com/artists/white-manna/ to choose your delivery and payment method

Also, if you are in the Berkeley area on the 29th of March, come see the dynamic duo (plus a few) at The Starry Plough inc. HEDERSLEBEN, both supporting Carlton Melton
More information here 

James Hodson

Big Chocolate - Clean EP

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Artist: Big Chocolate
Album: Clean EP
Record Label: Flab Slab Records
Release Date: 12/02/2013

Pretty much a year ago today, and also the day before my birthday, awaited before us a musical presence incomparable to the majority prior that had came, saw and conquered before it. The man behind the moustache, Cameron Argon (or as we are all more acquainted with him by his stage moniker Big Chocolate), made a conscious decision to whole-heartedly change the pace of his musical career even with his already reputable game of festival EDM and once one-man-band grind metal. With a fresh start, early in the electronic game he earned himself plenty of positive exposure pretty much overnight, especially thanks to the video shot for ‘I Own The World’ from one of the many back catalogue EPs Shacka Brah!, as well as showcasing plentifully his production skills live on the DJ circuit. 

This particular short series of new age eclectic beats and unorthodox space-scape rhythms really does push even harder all the questions asked by this ageing cult following electronic dance music has so whole-heartedly retained over the years. There are still many cynics lingering the forums, the message boards, the guest spot submission pages on those Blogspot’s that usually affiliate with indie Vegan food networks and anti-marijuana campaign websites. But BC really proves those cynics wrong, that digital sound really can emulate organic atmosphere and even compliment it well also (an added bonus to the whole thing really). That’s what makes this release the ultimate, universal eyebrow-raiser. 

We are greeted first off and solely deep inside of Bypass, with a compilation of progressive and natural slow breaks. Baring witness as the departure of dark day (Seattle?) rain counteracts with the wooden snaps of stick on drum, amplifying sounds of Afro-Caribbean culture, throughout. Accompanying the inevitable, oriental plucks that overdrive and overtake the current beat haunt the tension that is built within. The underlying trap influence starts to become evident almost immediately, several steps after we are rid of the song’s eerie vocals, at least for the time being. Just as the groove starts to take flight, it’s time to reload in order to build that tension again. Another few bars of interlude then as we drop a second time, it’s as if these bass kicks get greater and these crashes are starting to double up. By the time we reach the end of the fade out, with the flow still in quick concession, Ride Up's almost unnoticeable exchange of sharp perc on perc slithers along pre-electro mash up combing trance shudders and street art, break dance backing tracks. An ear pricks up as I get sent back to 2004 when Mario bounced back with ‘Let Me Love You’ to resemble the generic, glitched R&B vocal chopped up, one that resides alongside it’s thick, disco-pogo harmonies. Wet and dry collide, new effects layer atop what is beneath, synths recalibrate to fit the timing, to fit the mood. The beat becomes monotonous but not an annoyance, just to the point where repetition seemed to have been a must.

A medlee of skips between random intervals perpetuates this song towards a rather drawn-out conclusion, to which this is where Travel Play's familiar time signature takes charge, steadying the flow back to full rhythm, just representing itself in a different light. What sounds like a cross between a gently played flute and an Amazonian bird, what you're convincing yourself already, ahead of time, is that “this tune actually has a sick hook” but what isn't immediately apparent is the underlying funky guitar pitter patters, contradicting the rest. It only becomes clear once a stiff break comes into play, and is met with a combination of several metallic strings being plucked out in quick succession in order to paint a picture using a pretty static palette. The key element, the USP if you will, of this track is definitely it's vocals (as I guess you're now noticing a pattern here with Cameron's beloved choice to utilize the spoken word). They act as an added filter, and also as a quite beautiful supporting instrument. The big room automated sweeps quiver as they ascend in volume, and transport us to a quite anticlimactic end. The punch may not be there but once again, what you get is a shock to the taste buds and find yourself almost doing the sit-down-slut-drop to yourself in a room, all by yourself. Just like Big C has spoke about before, taking reference specifically from the interview with maDCap in Philadelphia, his aim with music production as a whole is that his preference lies within writing, just the writing of the music, to create and pioneer new avenues in which future artists will hopefully choose to go down. This is a massive pro for us when it comes to expecting new and refreshing takes on popular music from him, and the manner in which he approaches it within his own production. This alone, is adamant the album throughout. But back to the topic in hand, and following suit from the previous track, the foregone conclusion stands to be in full effect yet again. About a minute and a half elapses until that pure EDM bile begins it’s descent back inside to poison this organic shallow tide, yet with a blend that provides us with enough anticipation to accept that our beloved anthem shall return before time runs out.  

Ours ears begin to prick up as the acoustic yawns of an ambient guitar lick appear, derived directly from second-to-last track Old Friend, as we see another masterpiece come to a close. A strong 3 minutes of chillout big beat riddled with hard mutant influences crowd surf this one to first place taken from my “Top 5/Out of 5/Cause there’s only 5” list. My favourite of this EP, Old Friend can take a beating from outside judgement when you consider that, good or bad, you can’t ignore the therapeutic waves this track can expel given the right mood. Money talks but when you’re not rich and you surround yourself with music daily, then music talks, and even shorts works can feel like opera scores when the music captivates you beyond straight thought. The vocal is strong once again, movement in percussion erupts, whilst still withstanding the vibin’ trap elements that have served so well up to now. The track fades out in reverse of how it started, competing with it’s own capacity and abilities. Relative to waking up half way through an unsteady bus journey, the breaks slam on and we find ourselves Here All Alone, only to end up on the other side of the spectrum. Almost a bit crunk, this track throws you into the mix from the word “go”. No hesitation. No looking back and with good intentions, as it proves to act as the perfect pick-me-up from a long winded audio acid session just moments before. Probably the most popular and memorable of all the vocal hooks coming from this release, and this probably due to it being the most repetitive, but you can’t deny the creativity invited with the use of it’s duo-vocal channels and battling pitches, offering more than just straight talk. Offering you the ability to see into this as an explanation, not just an idea. The dancehall-sounding, motown-wearing undertones that subtly join in thereafter drive this song to it’s full completion with not much need for variation. The arrangement erodes away at itself ‘til it comes to a complete stop and the whispering echoes of those last notes shout “sayonara!” to it’s audience. 

One of the best works of art I heard last year, and it still holds up to it’s unforgiving novelty every time I make time to listen to it. Follow Cameron on his SoundCloud to stay up-to-date with everything happening with him and his music in 2014.

Only £2.49 for the full EP available on iTunes (alternative distributors also available) 
Click here to purchase
And also Beatport

James Hodson 

Imami - Madhouse (12” & Digital)

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Artist: Imami
Album: Madhouse
Record Label: Apothecary Compositions
Release Date: 26/11/2013

It’s been a while, in retrospect, since pure minimal has been the antagonist poster-boy in this underground mound of the newly revived scene (more a lifestyle for those who still breathe novelty one-take masters and demo-tapes-turned-cult-classics). But Imami’s release of Madhouse really combines the trifecta of house music currently sweeping the airwaves and the eardrums of pop culture the past year or so; deep, disco and drugs.

This collation of hits starts off with Ghost2Ghost, a strong ode to the powerful 808 melodies that were once constructed so fluently back when hip-hop first broke the barrier between bones, thugs ‘n’ harmony, and is now strictly just harmony. A strong ’80s presence lingers as chimes create a collage of themselves masquerading as well presented Moog keys (or at the very least, Korg P-Series) which skips underneath baritone overcasts presented using a rebelliously contrasting vocal hook. Madhouse, the EP’s title track, continues the flow in good spirits by utilizing more than just a modernised take on the change in the acid genre over the past years. What starts out as something you’d expect to come from B9, Geode and artists similar of the fluid movement, sinks quickly into shifts and pans and sweeps that make you remember that house is all about universal feeling, even minimal, retro, lo-fi takes on it. There’s no real drop involved and it seems to deviates from the build-up initially, but the way this tune can die and supercharge itself back to full health is quite admirable, and a tricky conquest to take on board. Cheeky LFO stabs and selective moments where you feel “this may be a Point Break tribute” keep you hooked. Oh and did I mention two special remixes of Madhouse were made especially for the album? SCNTST delivers exceptional Incubus style progressions as if they came straight from the a Y2K New Year’s Eve party, of which suddenly hits back against the surface of the original, with a more elusively bass-driven drop that shows us how well high frequencies can work when applied to the right blueprint. It’s almost as if the travelling band came in and laid down a few licks in jammin’ mode. On the flipside, Visionist's remix comes at you from a more trip-hop related angle, deriving dark pleasure from the origins of oriental and fitting them in place where necessary. It seems it may have been conjured up as a polite way of referencing harder dub to a less aware audience, but the final product is one that is worth the wait. 

There’s no time for a breather once you hear the first note of power-play score Melted Loveand the album restarts in a new gear. Echoes from experimental caves where amateur producers lay down whatever they can muster land somewhere in the midst of one of minimal’s most excruciatingly catchy tunes of the past 15 years or so, and in a new light. The switch from cartoon atmospherics to technical basslines is expected but if you can tell me exactly where and when, I’ll pay you myself for this release. The mood instantly decides on a change of pace as Skellies descends into yet deeper and dirtier temperatures, with stabs creating the initial winding force of this fittingly, Capoeira dance number, reminiscent visions of merry-go-rounds and fun fair’s come to mind, like earlier Prodigy vinyl having a wind-down session. The uprising nature of this tune’s sweeping backhand let you know that, in all fairness, you don’t really know what’s happening, which is comforting once you reach the barrage of electro leads and the return of that, what seems like, unorthodox time signature. We finish off the originals in tense silence as we await what Meat Grinderhas got to offer as a finale. Starting off as something you’d expect to hear from the Cambodians on lunch break during the filming of Apocalypse Now, the drums slowly apprehend themselves. Don’t expect monotonous, droning kicks to be the key element of this arrangement, as even running-pitch snare breaks seem to come out of nowhere, as if they were once almost out of sight, and toms replace kicks as kicks replace heartbeats. 

Era is timeless when it comes to choosing your weapons, and Imami certainly shows how to take advantage of what he knows how to wield. Countless riff medleys overlapping one another, as they fight to the front and percussions takes a rest at the back, popping up in unexpected sections to drive your attention back to those insane basslines.

An absolutely outstanding collection that really stretches the defintion of “simple yet effective”

Download the EP straight from Bandcamp here

James Hodson