Albums: Teebs, SBTRKT, Ekoplekz and more

estara

Teebs
Estara
Brainfeeder

I’ve pretty much given up trying to find acts that are in the Flying Lotus vein – I thought there must be a whole untapped community of freaky beat wizards out on the coast, and as it turns out, there were maybe five. Listening to Teebs’ first album was kind of like listening to the crop of “next Amy Winehouse” candidates, in that I realized just how much I was setting myself up for disappointment comparing artists to FlyLo. Sure, the textures were pretty, but where was the boom-bap? If I wanted drippy background keyboard business with hushed vocals, I’d listen to Sigur Ros. Funnily enough, E S T A R A is basically even more Sigur Ros like than Ardour was, what with the acoustic guitars and the echoing percussion and the bells and the ethereal choirs (yawn, gag etc). But since I got myself a decent subwoofer, I realized that Teebs’ music relies to some extent on the tension between the beatific sounds in the treble and mids, versus the ruffneck business in the bass. There ain’t nuttin nice in the big fat kick drum driving “Hi Hat” or the Zepplinesque break powering “Shoouss Lullaby.” More than before, he finds ways of marrying the sublime and the sub-frequency-violence that add up to more than their parts. Recommended.

SBTRKT-Transitions-608x608

SBTRKT
Transition.
Young Turks

I don’t entirely get why people go nuts for SBTRKT. Is it the mask? It can’t just be the music, which is interesting but hardly worth going all gasp-and-drool over. Most footwork producers churn out tracks with similar textures and programming skill, only unlike this guy they pump out dozens of them every three months. “Kyoto” is admittedly a triumph of layering thin textures on top of each other until you can hardly stand it. But when he gets closer to “trap”, I lose interest. Is this another thing we can blame on Drake? (YOLO?)

phonica

Ten Years Of Phonica
Phonica

Record stores are your friends, people. The first time I hit up Phonica in London, I confessed to the guy behind the desk that I was having trouble finding fodder for this blog, and did he know any artists maybe I had missed? An armload of records later, I vowed to add the place to my must-visit list. This disc shows that I’m not alone, since presumably artists like Legowelt, I:Cube, Joe Claussell et al don’t just license their best tracks to comps by people they don’t like. The elusive Trevor Jackson (Playgroup) and Henrik Schwarz both contribute subtly simmering tracks, while Steve Moore’s remix of Iori and Juju & Jordash pitch their curve balls from way out in leftfield. But the real highlight is Raudive’s “Health” with its perfect balance of tribal and techy.

ekoplekz_unfidelity_grande

Ekoplex
Unfidelity
Planet Mu

I’m an unabashed Nick Edwards fan, and not just because his Gutterbreakz blog was a crucial and singularly illuminating part of the music blog 1.0 revolution I covered in the early part of my career. Unfidelity is an uneasy listen, even if you’re merely focusing on the early-industrial-meets-sci-fi-soundtrack textures, all dystopian metallic percussion and dry mechanical drum machine brutalism. It’s hard to make that engaging for three minutes, never mind an album, but Edwards’ collection here is like watching a 70s techno thriller eg. Alien or The Andromeda Strain – you want to switch it off even as you’re admiring its aesthetics and claustrophobic mood, but every time you reach for the remote, the realization that you’ll have missed whatever lies around the corner makes you hesitate.

analoguecops

The Analogue Cops
Heavy Hands
Restoration

I like minimal stuff – really minimal stuff. Drone? Sure. Tape loops? Where do I sign up? I also like some of Analogue Cops’ singles, at least to work into DJ sets. Things that are track-y are not necessarily dull. But this …is just dull. I appreciate the brute force of a good long drum loop and/or whooshy noise as much as the next person on epic quantities of drugs. But this… Nope. Just nope.

kassem-mosse-workshop-19-2lp-088499-9fc8b4ce

Kassem Mosse
Workshop 19
Workshop

It’s rare, in my experience, to listen to 52 minutes of music and not have strong feelings about it one way or the other, but somehow Workshop 19 manages that underwhelming state of equilibrium. Some tracks are just clashing assemblages of interesting textures; others are neatly arranged sets of poorly chosen synth patches. I seriously wanted to say something more interesting than “I wish he hadn’t used that farty horn sound on track B2”, but I wish he hadn’t used that farty horn sound on track B2. MEH.

Friday at MUTEK: Sweet relief

modeselektor

“Bon weekend!” Don’t mind if I do, mister bus driver man. My MUTEK kicked off in fine fashion on Friday, after a quiet bus journey to Montreal punctuated only by extreme hunger when the fine people at Coach Canada refused to let us off at Kingston to get food, asking us instead to purchase their sandwiches from the smiling man kindly blocking the rear doors. Somehow this struck me as distinctly Ontarian. On to Quebec.

A/Visions 02: Sutekh, Comaduster, Murcof + AntiVJ

Since I came here expecting to dance, I was amused to note that the first gig I’d be taking in was a sit-down affair. Even more uncharacteristically, there was a piano at centre stage. When Sutekh a.k.a. glitchy experimental vet Seth Horvitz came out in vest and tie and stood next to the piano, I assumed this was the prelude. No, it was one of Yamaha’s digital player pianos, and after he left, we never saw him again. It wasn’t hard to imagine why — if the crowd had tomatoes, he would have been a target once we realized we were being subjected to an interminable piano suite that consisted of cascading patterns that clearly weren’t being played by a human. Unfortunately it was clearly written by a human, one who failed to exploit the possibilities, or present a more edited version of the few successes, of what was a pretty nifty idea to start with. As I said to my friend, I preferred the single edit.

After a generic set from Comaduster � seriously, if you wanted to put ‘minimal experimental tech/glitch’ in the dictionary, get a sample of this guy’s set, complete with a visual backing of still photos of globs of stuff going in and out of focus � we got Murcof, whose album Cosmos made quite a thing in recent years. Of that, we got a short but powerful blast, namely some astonishing orchestral drone that I would have loved to hear more of. Not being hugely familiar with Murcof, I enjoyed his recent stuff rather than a sampling of his older material, which sounded dated to my ears. But major praise is due for improving with time, a rare and valuable thing. What he could do with a cello sample, twisted and distended but still recognizably alive, is remarkable. And an even huger bit of praise is due for AntiVJ, whose computer-generated latticeworks and bubbles leaped handily over the screen-saver-wank of novice VJs and into genuinely interesting, arresting, moving art that I would pay to see on its own, even.

Nocturne 02: FaltyDL, Anstam, Modeselektor

We had to miss Siriusmo and Jacques Greene in order to see Murcof, but a balance is important. And we definitely caught the other side of MUTEK when we turned up at Metropolis to see FaltyDL taking the stage and dropping some seriously swishy garage (and here I don’t mean the UK version), complete with some rave-y breaks and… yes… bongos. The crowd generally ate it up, being of a more Euro disposition than you might get in Toronto at, say, Wrongbar; in fact it was when the man born Drew Lustman threw in some more characteristically dubstep and heavy stuff that the dance machine ground to a halt. I think he was pissed off, in fact, since he ended his set on Squarepusher’s fun but aggressive “My Red Hot Car.” Whatever, guy — I liked it.

I did not like Anstam, however, at all. “Industrial dubstep” is not a genre that needed to exist, in my opinion, not when you have Benga pushing out stuff that’s both speaker-chewing and funky; taking away the groove and making it harder and more painful is like taking a cupcake and replacing the icing with toothpaste. Too loud and painfully dry.

I knew Modeselektor would provide everything Anstam didn’t, but even I was shocked by just how fun and populist they would be, even here at MUTEK. They dropped french rappers TTC in an obvious sop to the crowd; they threw in some dancehall; hell, I was surprised they didn’t break out the beach balls and confetti cannons. But quickly they got into some rubbery bass business that hit like the first warm breeze of summer, and all the tension of sitting in a desk chair for months, as well as sitting on a bus all day, melted into air. The duo cockily rewinded their tunes until they were satisfied; no complaints here, either.

Tomorrow: reviewing Plastikman, hopefully catching some of Tomas Jirku, and telling you how much I like sleeping in. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.