11. Speedy J – ‘G Spot’

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, Ambient, Ambient Techno, Techno | Tags: | No Comments »

Speedy J - G Spot

Speedy J * G Spot * 1995 * Warp

Jochem Paap’s sleek G Spot hums with a motor built to last through the next millennium. Composed during several months of recovery from life-threatening glandular fever, it’s a deeply thoughtful album pumping with industrial-strength muscle. And while Speedy J‘s Public Energy No. 1 got more recognition because of its glitchy innovations, in retrospect G Spot is his most stirring work. ‘Ping Pong,’ ‘The Oil Zone’ and ‘G Spot’ are the finest entrancers techno has ever had to offer.

Paap grew up in the busy port city of Rotterdam, Holland. As a precocious hip hop DJ with legendary skills, he earned the name Speedy J early on in his career. In the ’90s he discovered techno and never looked back, signing onto Richie Hawtin’s Plus 8 label and England’s Warp Records. His first album, Ginger, displayed a knack for spacious grooves screwed tightly to dramatic switches in compressed tone and design.

“I work from graphic ideas,” Paap told MONDO Magazine in 1997, sounding like a Dutch painting master. “I don’t work from music. I don’t get melodies or tunes in my head. If I hear a sound, I don’t remember it from the way it sounds, but by the way it looks.”

G Spot took those instincts to the next level while remaining firmly on the dance floor. Trance classic ‘Ping Pong’ slings to an inventive interplay between wide-as-sky bass and what sounds like a plastic ball bouncing back and forth through an air tube. ‘The Oil Zone’ slinks with craning industrial beats and rising gaseous synths that call to mind the image of a self-replicating robot factory on Mars. And the titanic ‘G Spot’ blazes like a G-force dogfight high in the sky, its electric storm of sparkling explosions rippling through the atmosphere.

G Spot‘s sexual connotations fit the album in one very important sense. It’s a sci-fi trip that consistently widens the eyes and sends shivers up and down the spine. But just as much as it taps into the senses, it works out the brain. It’s a devastating mix, and all the more powerful because years later, it still gleams as the state-of-the-art.

Tracks:
1. The Fun Equations
2. Ping Pong
3. Fill 25
4. Lanzarote
5. Extruma
6. The Oil Zone
7. Treatments
8. Fill 17
9. G Spot
10. Grogno


12. Leftfield – ‘Leftism’

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, Ambient, Ambient Techno, Breakbeat, House, Techno | Tags: | No Comments »

Leftfield - 'Leftism'

Leftfield * Leftism * 1995 * Sony/Columbia/Hard Hands

Leftfield‘s Leftism is THE rave album of the ’90s, voted by many as the best dance album of all time. In crude terms, it’s about speakers — loud and clear. That’s not a cliche for its own sake. Neil Barnes and Paul Daley’s debut longplayer is an enduring manifesto about the unique power of electronic music pumped through big, high-performance audio systems: Electronica is best played loud and best at sounding clear.

“Hit in the chest and the gut,” Daley once told Mixmag of their bass ethos. “When me and Neil were at warehouse parties all the systems were like that, so we took that as a marker. We come from a world where bass was the most powerful thing and everything followed on from it.”

At Leftfield’s very first live show in Amsterdam, the Dutch police almost arrested their soundman for pumping the volume to near illegal levels. At the Brixton Academy theatre in London, their sound system caused dust and plaster to fall from the ceiling, effectively banning them from the venue. Wearing that infamy proudly, Leftism‘s cover art framed a speaker in shark’s jaws. Photos inside the sleeve show Daley and Barnes sitting before a giant stack of bass bins and tweeters, audiophiles bringing major firepower to the 20th Century powwow.

But Leftfield weren’t just bass savants. They perceived lower tones as the equal player in music’s overall dynamism. “If there’s too much bass, the groove becomes too wide and the needle pops out,” Barnes once explained in a tutorial about bass and vinyl records. “You have a trade-off of either compressing something and making it really loud or having the sound you want. But if you turn it up, your bass gets louder and washier and the grooves basically start to collide. Technically there’s no way round it.”

Barnes, an old mate of the Sex Pistol’s John Lydon and an ex-teacher, first teamed up with Daley, a friend who drummed for the Brand New Heavies, on a remix of ‘Not Forgotten.’ Barnes originally penned the progressive house anthem alone, its evocative call-and-response melodies reminiscent of crying geese in the morning and its “What’s wrong with these people?” voice sample taken from the movie Mississippi Burning. But the duo’s ‘Hard Hands’ remix of the single redrew the template of UK dance music overnight, it’s rumbling bass and reggae breakbeats echoing down through the underground.

By the time Leftism was hitting DJ decks, Barnes and Daley were at the vanguard of UK’s mid-’90s techno surge. The classic album track ‘Song of Life’ is Leftism in miniature. It hacks through the electronic night-scape, languishing to dubbed-out beats and haunting vocals before launching through a quickening pulse of dance floor ecstasy. ‘Inspection (Check One)’ still reigns as the hardest, baddest reggae electronica track of all time, ploughing the cranium at 33 RPMs or slamming the hills at a switched-up 44 RPMs on the turntables.

One of the first techno supergroups to successfully marry guest vocalists with electronica, Leftfield’s Leftism features Earl Sixteen on the uplifting ‘Release the Pressure’ and Curve’s Toni Halliday on ‘Original’ — with a remix single featuring another 33/44 RPM breakbeat scorcher with ‘Original Jam.’ Neil Cole as “Djum Djum” wigs out with African jibberish and twanging berimbau riffs on the driving ‘Afro-Left’ — another remix single featuring the mighty ‘Afro-Ride,’ ‘Afro-Sol’ and ‘Afro-Central.’

Leftfield’s most successful track ‘Open Up,’ featuring the “Burn, Hollywood, burn!” wailings of Lydon, would reach #13  on the charts, helping push the album to #3 in England. “It was gutsy, spunky and energetic; everything that punk had been and which the rock press largely accused dance music of lacking,” wrote critic Peter Buckley. “It was the biggest two-fingered salute dance music had yet administered.”

But the punk attitude also masked a softer, more sensitive side of Leftfield. The ambient groove of ‘Melt’ calls to mind the saxophonic romanticism of Vangelis while dipping the listener in an ocean brimming high as the clouds. And closer ’21st Century Poem,’ featuring the rhyming lyricism of poet Lemn Sissay, wears its rave heart on its sleeves, a call to conscience for every would-be global idealist awakened on the ’90s dance floor.

In some ways, Leftfield was a victim of Leftism‘s success. It would take them years to produce their second and last album, the underrated and tougher Rhythm and Stealth. Daley once complained to Lotus magazine that he couldn’t escape the first album, as it was played in cafes and retail stores throughout Europe.

The perfectionism that drove Leftfield and led to the demise of their output, left an indelible mark on global youth culture. Still rated as one of the top albums of all time by publications like Q Magazine, Leftism is a towering mountain in the electronica landscape. Not all of it has aged well. And many music fans have never ventured near it.

But its fealty to the cult of bass remains a clear signal to anyone who has wavered or missed loud speakers channeling hidden dimensions in sound.

For that reason alone, Leftfield is never forgotten. And neither is their world.

Tracks:
1. Release the Pressure
2. Afro-Left
3. Melt
4. Song of Life
5. Original
6. Black Flute
7. Space Shanty
8. Inspection (Check One)
9. Storm 3000
10. Open Up
11. 21st Century Poem


13. The KLF – ‘Chill Out’

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, Ambient, Ambient Techno | Tags: | No Comments »

KLF - 'Chill Out'

The KLF * Chill Out * 1990 * KLF Communications / Wax Trax!

The KLF (or Kopyright Liberation Front) were the ultimate rebel act. Post-punk pranksters, Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond gleefully tweaked all corporate expectations of their insanely popular sound. They took the anarchic punk ethic far beyond its rock origins, embracing dance rhythms and prog rock, ripping off samples in broad daylight and often getting away with it.

Their exploits are legendary. Performing at England’s Helter Skelter rave in outdoor Oxfordshire in 1989, they demanded their pay upfront and then showered the crowd with one-pound notes, each scribbled with ‘Children we love you.’ Voted the Best British Group by BPI‘s annual BRIT Awards in 1992, they fired blanks at the audience of a London awards ceremony and delivered a sheep carcass and eight gallons of blood to the hotel lobby of the after-party. And in 1994, they reportedly made the largest cash withdrawal in UK history, nailing 1,000,000 pounds to a board. They then burned their ‘Nailed to the Wall‘ art piece and its massive cash sum on the island of Jura, in the presence of a journalist and cameraman.

But their controversial pranks were earned. The KLF are best known for their ‘Stadium House Trilogy,’ three ridiculously fun dance anthems that smashed the pop charts in 1990 and 1991: ‘What Time Is Love?, ’3 A.M. Eternal’ and ‘Last Train to Trancentral.’ But the album these singles are featured on, The White Room, is not their masterpiece.

Before their breakout success, Cauty and Drummond recorded the classic Chill Out, THE ambient manifesto of the ’90s. It was the blueprint for all chill out albums that followed, especially The Orb‘s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, which Cauty would help kick-start.

Based on travelogue recordings from a road trip along North America’s Gulf Coast — including birds, trains and radio news of a deadly drag race — Chill Out channeled everything from Elvis Presley and country music to Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac. Recorded live, it eases the listener into a swamp of fussy and serene sounds, all adhering to a hidden logic frequented by flashes of intense revelation.

Pink Floyd’s ‘Echoes’ and 808 State‘s ‘Pacific State’ mingle on ‘The Lights of Baton Rouge Pass By’ while the steel guitar strums of ‘Madrugada Eterna’ map a lonesome inner bliss amid freight trains. And ‘Wichita Lineman Was a Song I Once Heard’ builds to the joyful symphonic refrains of their later hit ‘Last Train to Trancentral,’ sounding like acid house casked in the Deep South.

But what makes Chill Out such a timeless album is Cauty and Drummond’s flawless instincts for mayhem and peace. They mellow you out and wake you up at the same time. And their wicked sense of humor and wide-eyed experimentation buoy a world-weary melancholy that suffuses the whole affair.

In 1992, The KLF voluntarily bowed out of the pop limelight. Despite subsequent projects and one-offs, they mostly stayed silent on the music front. But their subversive acts continued. In 1996, for example, Cauty faced a lawsuit from a farmer who claimed Cauty’s outdoor sound experiments were so loud they traumatized his cows. Cauty was apparently testing a custom-built “audio weapon system.”

Which goes to show once again, while Chill Out aims to soothe, the chaps behind it were anything but chill in the head. Feverish and earnest, The KLF never compromised. And they never failed to astound.

Tracks:
1. Brownsville Turnaround on the Tex-Mex Border
2. Pulling Out of Ricardo and the Dusk Is Falling Fast
3. Six Hours to Louisiana, Black Coffee Going Cold
4. Dream Time in Lake Jackson
5. Madrugada Eterna
6. Justified and Ancient Seems a Long Time Ago
7. Elvis on the Radio, Steel Guitar in My Soul
8. 3AM Somewhere Out of Beaumont
9. Wichita Lineman Was a Song I Once Heard
10. Trancentral Lost in My Mind
11. The Lights of Baton Rouge Pass By
12. A Melody from a Past Life Keeps Pulling Me Back
13. Rock Radio Into the Nineties and Beyond
14. Alone Again with the Dawn Coming Up


15. Young American Primitive – ‘Young American Primitive’

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, Ambient, Ambient Techno, Breakbeat, Techno | Tags: | No Comments »

Young American Primitive - 'Young American Primitive'

Young American Primitive * Young American Primitive * 1993 * Zoe Magik

While Europe’s mainstream embraced acid house full-heartedly, America’s innovators had to survive underground. Besides the origin cities of Detroit, Chicago and New York, West Coast cities emerged in the mid-’90s as incubators of a newer sound, tapping into Los Angeles’ urban funk and San Francisco’s psychedelic legacies. Along with artists like DubtribeFreaky Chakra and Skylab 2000, Young American Primitive helped lead a second wave of rave music.

Greg Scanavino, the man behind Young American Primitive, eventually signed with Geffen Records, where his music career stalled. But his first album remains a lost treasure. What’s still remarkable about it is its distinct blend of Alfred Hitchcock and Outer Limits TV voice samples, heady melancholia and tranced-out tribalism.

Young American Primitive also had a real talent for crafting gravity-defying grooves. ‘Trance-Formation’ and ‘Young American Primitive’ both soar to tribal breaks and weightless bass lines. The more earthbound ‘Ritual’ and ‘Sunrise’ still revel in the sky, beautifully building as with arms greeting the dawn, rhythms percolating ever upwards.

Outer space and science fiction are key obsessions on Young American Primitive. ‘Over and Out’ is a classic drift of arpeggiating lines that seem to ooze out of black holes. At the track’s climax, Scanavino samples Dennis Hopper’s famous ‘If’ monologue from Apocalypse Now to wonderful effect. The ambient ‘Daydream’ conjures Blade Runner and was once a John Digweed favorite. It’s an L.S.D. lullaby.

But the album’s biggest triumph arrives with ‘These Waves,’ a dazzling burst of expanding sonic light and pretty string theories. Its xylophone rhythm lifts its otherworldly beauty as a will-o’-the-wisp melody hooks you into its many splendors. “These waves are all around us. A thousand falling sparks all over me.” It sounds exactly like what it says.

Sadly, Scanavino’s next album never escaped the Geffen vaults. And Young American Primitive was never reissued due to legal tangles over the album’s many TV and movie samples. Young American Primitive’s fate was a lesson for all would-be electronica stars: The freedom at the heart of electronic dance culture would be consistently challenged in the years to come.

But that optimistic, tripped-out spirit still lives on in every note and beat of Young American Primitive. Even the corny rave vamps of ‘Monolith’ signify a more innocent time. No chemicals needed. Just an open mind.

Tracks:
1. Intro
2. Trance-Formation
3. Flux
4. Young American Primitive
5. Ritual
6. Sunrise
7. Daydream
8. Over and Out
9. These Waves
10. Monolith Part One
11. Monolith Part Two


17. Underworld – ‘Second Toughest in the Infants’

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, Ambient, Ambient Techno, Breakbeat, Techno | Tags: | No Comments »

Underworld - 'Second Toughest in the Infants'

Underworld * Second Toughest in the Infants * 1996 * Junior Boys’ Own

After the underground smash of their first album, Underworld hit the studio hard, churning out gobs of innovative music. First they followed up with a host of E.P.’s that wildly remixed earlier singles into some of the most forward-looking techno on the globe. Dark & Long and Dirty Epic/Cowgirl revealed a band riding a relentless high, epic tracks like ‘Thing in a Book’ and ‘Dark Train’ trailblazing a new musical vernacular far out into the imagination.

A more unsettled blueprint emerged with their interim single, Born Slippy. The title track deconstructed a click-clack breakbeat to devastating effect, its searing synth lines climbing the psychic stratosphere with counterpuntal abandon. But it was the less muscular b-side ‘Born Slippy.Nuxx’ that would bring them their greatest fame. Used as the final uplifting soundtrack to the movie hit Trainspotting, ‘Nuxx’ was actually a piss-take of sorts, its rough rhythms a warehouse swelter of chains and metal riffs, contrasting with its catchy, pretty opening chords.

Second Toughest in the Infants capped off this feverish activity with a coolly controlled, slow-burn album of broad artistic ambitions. One might call it a matured sound. But it can more accurately be described as Underworld comfortably settling into their role as techno supergroup and genre grownups.

The offbeat album title derived from studio maestro Rick Smith’s nephew, who was six years old at the time, commenting on his progress in school. The “second toughest” sentiment nicely paralleled Underworld’s own path. Cruising in, their second longplayer engages right off with the flanged breakbeats of ‘Juanita : Kiteless : To Dream of Love,’ weaving and winding into a croaking groove, spinning out to mesmerizing piano and rapidly firing waterfall high-hats. ‘Banstyle / Sappy’s Curry’ ricochets to soft drum ‘n’ bass rhythms in a jacuzzi of warm, hushed melodies, frontman Karl Hyde singing “Here come the Marines. As if that hurts.”

The two bruisers on offer chart two routes into dance floor energy. Like ‘Born Slippy,’ ‘Rowla’ and ‘Pearl’s Girl’ got their names from a book of greyhound racing dogs. Like their namesakes, each one picks up its pace slowly, muscles, bones and sinews of percussion building to an unstoppable rhythm. ‘Rowla’ growls with rough synth riffs, scratching with blades of static. Hyde gets busy on the hulking ‘Pearl’s Girl,’ slinging his abstract Englishman raps over pulverizing beats and surging walls of sound.

Balancing out the sound and fury, ‘Confusion the Waitress,’ ‘Air Towel’ and ‘Stagger’ explore mellow techno shot through smokey diners, coffee cups and flying saucers. Weird and sleek at once, they round out Underworld’s convincing bid for blues of the future. In case anyone missed the tab, ‘Blueski’ hits it home with a sweet tangle of steel guitar strings ringing from Hyde’s fingers.

Second Toughest in the Infants sealed Underworld’s reputation as the artist’s artist as well as reliable fan-pleaser. It encapsulated their functional and experimental approach to music: If it moves, it grooves; if it kinks, it thinks. It also offered a cockpit view inside their wanderer ethos, their fragmented poetry, their hope and loathing.

The following Pearl’s Girl E.P. would bookend this heroic phase of Underworld’s career. Dreamy tracks like ‘Oich Oich’ and ‘Mosaic’ put them on the quiet edge while ‘Cherry Pie’ was an aching beauty of cosmic proportions, one of techno’s all-time best.

Second Toughest in the Infants, and its brethren, showcased electronica’s greatest band at the height of its powers. It was a heady time. Looking back now, it’s still timeless, still an infinite infant.

Tracks:
1. Juanita : Kiteless : To Dream of Love
2. Banstyle / Sappy’s Curry
3. Confusion the Waitress
4. Rowla
5. Pearl’s Girl
6. Air Towel
7. Blueski
8. Stagger


18. Move D – ‘Kunststoff’

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, Ambient, Ambient Techno | Tags: | No Comments »

Move D - 'Kunststoff'

Move D * Kunststoff * 1995 * Source Records

Germany is one of the original seedbeds of popular electronic music, having hatched Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Giorgio Moroder in the ’70s. By the ’90s, cities like Frankfurt were pioneering trance music, where Sven Vath headlined the infamous Dorian Gray nightclub and once reputedly played a nonstop 24-hour DJ set. In Berlin, Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus virtually invented “dub techno” as Basic Channel, a trippy fusion of subsonic bass, echoing percussion and hypnotic minimalism.

But of all these breakout artists and scenes, David Moufang as Move D, a classically trained musician and jazz guitarist from Heidelberg, would write Germany’s consummate techno album of the ’90s. His mellifluous style was soothing but astonishing in its melodic insights and rhythmic turns. He drew heavily from jazz and house music, mixing his ambient techno into an aural absinthe. With a sixth sense for synthesizers’ ability to stretch one’s sense of space and time, Moufang casually opened the mind to the intimate places between notes and beats. Kunststoff, which means “plastic” in German, shaped those places into previously unimagined thoughts and feelings.

Case in point, the sensual ‘In/Out’ heaves and sighs into a heightened delirium, its deep-rocking beats collapsing the distance between two somas, the Greek “soma” for body and the Sanskritsoma” of Vedic legend, the intoxicating drink of immortality. Higher and higher it goes until in-and-out and up-and-down flip into something beyond words.

Starter ‘Eastman’ sounds like Derrick May‘s Detroit techno classic ‘It Is What It Is’ wafting over the Atlantic to the warm Riviera. It’s a slow-mo smear of sunset modulations. ‘Sandmann’ struts to a bouncy machine-room groove while ‘Hood’ crawls inside rubber-band tones. The gentle, dreamy melodies of ‘’77 Sunset Trip’ linger in America’s industrial zone discos  — the soul moving under a hot New York summer night or the deep house musings of Chicago’s Mr. Fingers. Chilling out, Moufang coasts into the lucid dreaming of ‘Beyond the Machine’ and the Mideastern drift of ‘Xing the Jordan.’

But it’s ‘Amazing Discoveries’ that still marks Moufang as one of the great audio visionaries of his time. Like a double helix it coils its synth lines up into a magic cloud of sonic reflections. It’s like looking up at the sun from the bottom of the sea and awakening from slumber to daydream splendor.

At times quiet and quick, Kunststoff is no casual album though it’s easy-as-she-goes vibe runs deep. But unlike Moufang’s cosmic musings as Deep Space Network with Jonas Grossmann, Move D side-winds to a sexier, earthier beat.

Skipping and slinking, it’s “intelligent” dance music for connoisseurs who realize Afro-Germanic is as intellectual as it gets.

Tracks:
1. Eastman
2. Soap Bubbles
3. Sandmann
4. In/Out (initial mix)
5. Hood
6. Tribute to Mr. Fingers
7. 77 Sunset Strip
8. Beyond the Machine
9. Nimm 2
10. Amazing Discoveries
11. Trist
12. Xing the Jordan / Seven


19. LFO – ‘Advance’

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, Ambient, Ambient Techno, Techno | Tags: | No Comments »

LFO - 'Advance'

LFO * Advance * Warp Records * 1996

A refined sequel to their massively influential first album, Mark Bell and Gez Varley’s last work together, while less groundbreaking than the previous Frequencies, is a timeless tour de force. From the first robotic phrases of ‘Advance,’ the title opener to LFO‘s second album, an electronic bravura is on the march. Lobbing fireballs across the wire, its flawless productions overwhelm the mind, hewing closely to the underground attitude of ’90s rave culture and mapping a tough, uncompromising tableau of sonic warfare.

The track ‘Loch Ness’ still remains one of the most evocative space symphonies techno has ever wrought, a clash of sparkling sine-waves and thundering drums, it sends the listener floating off through a magnetic storm in some distant galaxy. The tossing and turning of ambient beauty ‘Goodnight Vienna’ calls to mind the stark lines and geometry of Wendy Carlos, who composed the score to the movie Tron, without ever aping her style. Pugnacious ‘Tied Up’ shocks the nerves with dreamy shapes of electricity, rolling over molten pits of steel while boxing your lights out with low frequency jabs.

When did this stubborn battle between the hard and soft begin? Bell and Varley were once rival breakdancers in the mid-’80s, before teaming up on England’s immortal bleep techno anthem, ‘LFO.’ “Bleep” referred to the use of synthesizer sine-waves, from high frequency notes to low frequency oscillations (the inspiration for the LFO name). Virtually launching Warp Records and rattling warehouses across the Western world, ‘LFO’ and the subsequent Frequencies of 1991 reshaped the electronic landscape, paving the way for the likes of Orbital and Aphex Twin.

Many critics still peg this breakout period in LFO’s career as their finest hour. Certainly it was their most impactful. But a close re-examination of Advance, which took Bell and Varley five years to craft, reveals that the old rivals scaled a pinnacle that was many leaps ahead of their time. As with Leftfield, LFO were perfectionists who cut deep paths into undiscovered regions of the musical universe. Their second albums were simply beyond the initial grasp of most critics and fans.

Take four invincible tracks from Advance: ‘Them,’ ‘Ultra Schall,’ ‘Shove Piggy Shove’ and ‘Psychodelik.’ The first prowls to tapping drum sticks flanged-out into oblivion while a sweep of chimes and slow-mo splashes slide the mind into its space-time groove. ‘Ultra Schall’ is much less linear. Its various elements slowly coalesce around a mournful melody, panting percussion and a call-and-response between terse bass murmurs and bright scrawls of light. It’s supreme electronica and one of the most overlooked techno gems of the ’90s. The pretty ‘Shove Piggy Shove,’ with its skyward counterpoint and little guitar flicks, is an easier pleaser that belies a restrained, almost jazz approach to bass and percussion. And ‘Psychodelik’ is one of the most infectious techno rides of all time, a rainbow synth-line weaving up and over and around the head, its slow howls and scintillating melodies crashing in a cosmic delirium of the senses.

The album bids adieu with two competing sides of the LFO psyche. ‘Forever’ drifts to a fever of shimmering keys and angelic clangs while ‘Kombat Drinking’ marches to a martial beat, its warping drums and assured cadences saluting the masses as its gentle waves of harmony wave goodbye to another innocent era of utopian dreaming.

Nearly a decade later, Bell would return alone as LFO with the respectable Sheath. A few killer tracks recalled the earlier glory. But nothing matched Bell and Varley’s last stand together. Advance is, well, advanced, even more than a decade after its release. In fact, it’s still not clear anyone has quite caught up.

Tracks:
1. Advance
2. Shut Down
3. Loch Ness
4. Goodnight Vienna
5. Tied Up
6. Them
7. Ultra Schall
8. Shove Piggy Shove
9. Psychodelik
10. Jason Vorhees
11. Forever
12. Kombat Drinking


20. Eat Static – ‘Implant’

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, Ambient, Ambient Techno, Techno | Tags: | No Comments »

Eat Static - 'Implant'

Eat Static * Implant * Planet Dog * 1995

“You could feel it, coming, coming down from the sky…”

For a generation raised on Star Wars and Star Trek, the techno trance outfit Eat Static were a godsend. Taking their name from the movie The Wrath of Khan — “Let them eat static!” – Joie Hinton and Merv Pepler, former bandmates of the psychedelic rock group Ozric Tentacles, jumped ship to join the growing ranks of the outdoor techno circuit of ’90s England. Out in the midnight fields, the two found a wide frontier of sonic possibilities. Hinton brought his keyboard skills to bear, inventing a whole new vocabulary of UFO bleeps, alien burps and wormhole whoops. In one sense, he was the Ben Burtt of trance music. Pepler on the other hand was a mad percussionist, who matched Hinton’s wild shapes perfectly with big bass patterns and warp-speed rhythms.

Soon the two hippie boys from Somerset were blasting rave kids to the heavens. Hitched to Planet Dog, a label of like-minded acts including Banco De Gaia and Timeshard, the duo quickly found themselves headlining some of the biggest rave nights in England, especially Michael Dog’s Club Dog and “Megadog” events.

Their third and best album, Implant, was a triumph of the strange and still remains one of the landmark electronica releases of the ’90s. Built around a clever catch of sci-fi B-movie and TV samples (“I’m picking up abnormal interference.” and “The space-time continuum may be permanently damaged.”), Eat Static conceived Implant as a visitation from extraterrestrials that sweep us off on an intergalactic space hop. Openers ‘Survivors’ and ‘Abnormal Interference’ freak to pulverizing bass and booming beats, weird chants and inventive funk bordering on a kind of alien speech.

But Eat Static’s play on sonic imagery is less about little green men and more about the great unknown. The eponymous ‘Implant’ sounds something like an alien abduction, but from behind the pilot console of a badass flying saucer. It zips to a relentless groove while a cascade of grooving synths whip out of thin air. A twisting TB-303 fries the atmosphere as a euphoric gas hovers in over the mystery, until silence is greeted by the supersonic pow of our quantum traveller. “There’s something different about Larrrrry.”

Eat Static has to be taken with a grain of salt. Their goofy UFO schtick is as humorous as it is aspirational. And it’s that slap of laughter that readies the mind for their bigger gestures of musical ambition. Hard, fast, zany, and yes, beautiful. ‘Area 51 (Nucleonic Mix)’ is a gentle jaunt into nocturnal bliss. Its dreamlike sonics flicker like some beckoning Pulsar until the intercom growl of our martian pilot lets loose subsonic bass and trails of melodic wonder. But that’s not all. Building with its throaty welling, ‘Area 51′ peaks with an explosion of low frequency oscillations, like a rope sending waves out into the infinite horizon. “How’s it going out there?” “There’s something out here!”

‘Cydonia’ kicks it up a parsec. “Martian computer control. Martian computer control.” The Earth shrinks away in the distance as warping synths snarl like cosmic harmonicas and tribal drums wind up the flight deck. Planets and stars fly by as Eat Static throttle things into hyperdrive, a calm sweeping over the bridge as if we’ve entered a new dimension, time slowing down as light-speed lands us in the ultimate relativity high.

Floating down from a spaceship hangar with ‘Uforic Undulance,’ Implant plants its flag on a magical moon, a Pandora before there was a Pandora. The cries and squawks of zero-gravity animals. The breeze through purple branches of a fractal jungle. The climbing undulations of liquid lightening. Then one of the most wicked grooves this side of Pluto kick-starts the moon buggy, drums skitter-scattering overhead as crystalline melodies rain down from pink morphing clouds. The plaintive flute of an alien Orpheus calls from afar as bright little riffs, sounding like the buzzy buttons of some cockpit keyboard, answer in funky technological reply. It’s pure genius.

Tracks:
1. Survivors
2. Abnormal Interference
3. Implant
4. Dzhopa Dream
5. Panspermia
6. Area 51 (Nucleonic Mix)
7. Cydonia
8. Uforic Undulance


21. Ken Ishii – ‘Innerelements’

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, Ambient, Ambient Techno, Techno | Tags: | No Comments »

Ken Ishii - 'Innerelements'


22. Global Communication – ’76:14′

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, Ambient, Ambient Techno | Tags: | No Comments »

Global Communication - '76:14'