Categories
electronic film

EELF

I love YouTube.

It’s one of the best inventions of this century. For me, the platform functions as a time machine. With a few clicks, I can visit the 1981 concert of New Order in New York, see and hear AC/DC perform with singer Bon Scott back in 1977 and turn my living room in a club with a perfect DJ-set full of rare records by My Analog Journal or enjoy the futuristic 80s visions by Are Sounds Electrik?.

YouTube makes the world smaller.

James Hoffmann makes me extremely happy with his coffee fetishism and Will Yeung vegan ramen is delicious and so easy to make.

But the channel I love most is EELF.

Since 2017, EELF (Andrius from Lithuania) has been combining hand-shot video material from the 1990s that he finds on YouTube with new electronic music found on platforms such as Bandcamp and Soundcloud. The combinations are exciting and unusually beautiful. The EELF channel is already close to 22 million views. Despite the old visual material, the conjunction with new music (which often sounds retro) does not feel nostalgic.

Maybe that’s also because the nineties, like the eighties, never really disappeared. The 21st century is characterized by the lack of a narrative of the now and the future. In that respect, we still live in the eighties and nineties. That last decade was postponed in 2001. It looks like it’s starting up again.

EELF’s YouTube channel is a success. In the beginning, he combined lo-fi house with film scenes. It was fun, but something was missing. The combination had to be more than just a gimmick. Sound and image had to support one another, had to lead to something unique. It all came together when he started using found VHS material from YouTube. New lo-fi house with amateur video clips from the 1990s was a perfect fit.

Today EELF has a catalogue of about 800 of these combinations, the channel has around 147,000 subscribers, and Andrius spends two hours a day making new uploads.

Finding the perfect combination is a delicate operation. His latest upload is footage from a sailing trip in, probably, the early nineties. The camera is shaky. Clumsy zooming in and out too fast, too unstable. The soundtrack is provided by Carmel & Salomo’s ‘Happy Hour’, released two weeks ago on vinyl by the label R.A.N.D. Muzik from Leipzig. It fits perfectly.

Andrius’ tagline is ‘EELF is creating nostalgia’, but his combinations are beyond nostalgia. Yes, his video material is from the past and the brand new music he uses flirts with the heydays of rave and electronic dance music. However, the combination isn’t referring to the past. It’s much more an alternative reality, a representation of a world that could have been. Could have been the present. I would suggest calling this post-nostalgia: EELF’s productions make us aware that we can approach things today in a more open, conscious and naïve way without losing ourselves in the past or the future.

This is a new sort of pop culture that doesn’t fight the status quo but creates a different world. YouTube is full of channels like this, and they all deserve our attention.

Visit EELF’s channel on YouTube here.

Categories
rock

Avery Plains + We Are Joiners

Groningen is the Seattle of The Netherlands.

The city is known for its alternative music culture. Vera is one of the oldest and probably the coolest Dutch music club. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was a haven for indie culture. All the cool national and international bands played shows there for all the cool kids. Double cool. Although it suffered from the changing live concert policies by MOJO (part of Clear Channel) in the early 2000s to only program one or two shows by international bands preferably in the Amsterdam region, Vera managed to stay relevant.

It is not a coincidence that Subroutine Records, the leading Dutch indie label, was founded in Groningen. The label gave a face to the rising New Dutch Indie scene. With pioneers The Sugarettes and Nikoo, both from Eindhoven, the scene skyrocketed in the late 2000s. In the 2010s it established a network of independent labels like Narrominded, Geertruida, Snowstar, Smikkelbaard and more. New exciting bands emerged from Maastricht to Groningen, and from Goes to Enschede.

In January 2017 indie culture took over pop club Paradiso in Amsterdam for 24 hours and over a 100 Dutch indie acts. The festival’s name was Van Onderen: from the bottom (up). Traditional media like Vice’s Noisey had a hard time dissing the festival (writing about a cult, sect and church of indie) and failed miserably.

Back to Groningen.

Two acts from the local indie scene just released new material. Avery Plains is a so-called supergroup: its members used to play in bands like Dandruff, Moonlizards, Meindert Talma and Audiotransparant. The band debuted on Subroutine, made a first album and were the support act for Dinosaur Jr. Their second SoOn has just been released on Flat Plastix. In the press sheet, the band mentions Swervedriver and Wipers and driving a rusty Ford Mustang in search of lost love.

Great metaphor and pretty accurate. SoOn is the soundtrack for an alternative reality where time doesn’t exist. Dusty roads and rusty muscle cars are everywhere and love is only an excuse to keep on driving. Interrupted for a half-warm beer in a shady truckstop. I could wander there forever.

Musically Avery Plains is a colourful blend of all edges of indie rock from the late 1980s and early 1990s. A bit of early Screaming Trees, Swervedriver, The Feelies, Kitchens of Distinction and The Afghan Whigs. Absolutely love the noisy guitars and crusty vocals. The twin guitars (and flanger) in ‘A Song of my Own Rising’ are magical. Reminds me of, well, drinking a half-warm beer in a shady truckstop.

In many ways, the debut ep Carriers is the opposite of SoOn. We Are Joiners are two lads recording their songs in the bedroom with just a Boss BR1180 recorder, cheap microphone and guitar with nylon strings. Sounds like early 1990s Sabadoh and has that typical slacker atmosphere. No Ford Mustang here, but a bicycle with a flat tire. And it’s beautiful. Three out of four tracks are under two minutes and sound raw, fresh and lively. Love it.

Funny detail: the duo is now working on their second ep that will be mastered by Pim van Werken, who wrote the underground diss in Noisey. Luckily he is a better producer than a writer ;- )

SoOn by Avery Plains is released by Flat Plastix, Carriers by We Are Joiners is released independently.

Categories
ambient electronic

Applescal – Diamond Skies

There are so many layers to discover on Diamond Skies.

Let’s start at the beginning.

In a way, Applescal is the missing link between the ambient techno of the Border Community sound and Dutch trance. Like his other records, Diamond Skies lacks the strong melancholic element of Cologne ambient scene (The Field, Popnoname) but is full of grand gestures. The optimism and directness of James Holden are never far away. The trance influence takes the edge off. It never becomes sentimental, like for example Nathan Fake’s ‘The Sky was Pink’ does.

Applescal is Amsterdam based producer Pascal Terstappen and Diamond Skies, released on this own Atomnation record label, is his sixth album. This one is his most coherent and direct.

That’s the second layer.

The album sounds like dancing on a house festival somewhere in the woods near Amsterdam while the sun is fading away into the night but still feels warm on your skin. It makes you long for those golden moments. The moments you become the rave and the rave becomes you. Terstappen captured that feeling all too well. Maybe on purpose, because he finished Diamond Skies in Covid-19 lockdown.

In that sense, this a nostalgic album. Well, let’s replace nostalgic by the German word Fernweh. It’s not so much the longing for what once was (house festival in the woods, etc etc) but for what we’ve lost and eventually will get back if we’re lucky. The mood on Diamond Skies is that of longing for an alternative reality where we ware still able to dance, watch the sun disappear, sip white cold white wine, dance some more, and witness a beautiful sunset.

That makes me both sad and happy. That’s layer three.

Playing Diamond Skies loud on my stereo makes me long for a summer full of dance parties so much, but also makes me feel like I’m there. Opening tracks ‘Incognitana’ and ‘Legobeats’, played on high volume, suck you in and drown you in rave aesthetics. The subtle piano chords, playful synths and clouds of ambient melodies are incredible addictive.

Diamond Skies might be the most coherent and direct Applescal album, it is also his most sophisticated. Beneath the superficial and linear structure of the tracks, hides a moody and strong sentiment.

Come to think of it, maybe Diamond Skies is Fernweh because it emotionally connects to the best house party you’ve ever been to, and that might well be one that you’ve only imagined in your dreams.

This is an album for dreamers.

Diamond Skies by Applescal is released by Atomnation.

Categories
pop rock

Lemon – Love Can Take You Places

For me, Manchester and Amsterdam are connected since the mid-1990s. I used to purposeless walk the city with my walkman. I taped the Second Coming album by Stones Roses and loved every second of it. Extremely underrated album. In ‘Straight to the Man’, Ian Brown sings ‘Amsterdam is Sodom and Gomorrah’. Don’t know why but since the first time I always heard ‘Amsterdam in summertime’.

Odd, right?

But, for me, that vocal line connected Manchester and Amsterdam. By that time I travelled a lot to London, Manchester and Birmingham. As a rising music journalist, I tried to experience pop culture from where I thought it happened. I was extremely Britain oriented. Well, let’s be honest: the first part of the 1990s is dominated by British pop culture. Right?

Long story short: Amsterdam felt like a bit like Manchester. I know, also back then, the cities where each other’s opposites: neoliberal, rich, a bit fake versus working class, recovering from economic and social depression, honest. But feelings don’t mind facts.

Since that moment in 1994, the two cites were connected.

In early 1990 there were a couple of Dutch bands that embraced the new exciting sound from Manchester (Charming Children, Pearls For Swains, Eton Crop), but by 2000 focus shifted to the new emerging post-punk scene in New York.

Except for Lemon.

Four lads from Amsterdam madly in love with Manchester.

On their debut album, Lemon took the early 1990s sound and transformed it into something new. Same like Kasabian, The Music en Viva Stereo also did around that time.

From their second Hey… (2006) on they moved towards a more laidback sound, honouring Madchester pioneers Happy Mondays, Stereo MC’s and The Charlatans. They called one of their later albums Nedchester (2011).

And now Lemon is back with an awesome new song.

‘Love Can Take You Places’ is a monument for both Nedchester and Madchester. It embodies the essence of the sound, the blend of northern soul and indie rock, the idea that maybe life isn’t fair but that we still have our music. The ultimate escape.

Scene icon Cath Coffey of Stereo MC’s is present as a guest vocalist and takes the song to a higher level, but it is the excellent songwriting that makes ‘Love Can Take You Places’ stand out.

There is only one possible improvement.

Well, actually two.

We need a way much longer dance version of the song. Like eight minutes with an Andrew Weatherall like touch.

It’s also time for a sixth Lemon album and I want to suggest a couple of new collaborations, including New Order and Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream. Maybe Eton Crop (back together again) also want to jam.

That’s it.

For now, I’ll enjoy the excellent quality of ‘Love Can Take You Places’.

Love Can Take You Places by Lemon is self-released.

Categories
ambient electronic

Aārp – Propaganda

There is a thin line between a government that handles a crisis well and a government that takes advantage of the possibilities that disorder brings.

Due to the covid-19 the Dutch government introduced an intelligent lockdown. Citizens were not forced to stay inside but asked to do so in favour of fellow citizens. Prime minister Mark Rutte played to role of a fellow concerned citizen really smart. Is he transparent or is there a hidden agenda?

Governments have a history of misinforming society. Paris-based experimental musician Aārp got triggered by an event in Nantes: a young man drowned under strange circumstances after police ended a festival. After the incident was covered up by spreading misinformation and distorting the truth.

Propaganda is an album about misinformation, distortion of the truth and propaganda initiated by governments and other authorities. The tittle of each track is a quote taken from historical events that we remember as propaganda. The ‘Axis of Evil’ speech by George Bush in 2002 is a well-known example, but I’m sure you recognize all the quotes Aārp uses.

Musically he refers to the producers who influenced him when starting making music: Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Amon Tobin and Oneothrix Point, to name a few. The lush sound, glitches and playfulness are present in every track.

Aārp operates between these influences and an open synthesizer sound that we consider to be typically French. The layers of analogue sounding synths and ambient atmosphere give this album a distant future- like feel. As if Aārp wants to warn us: this may sound like the future, but the message is one of the past. Be. Critical. Of. Authorities.

Propaganda by Aārp is released by InFiné.

Categories
ambient electronic

KROOKS FIFTEEN

Party in Amsterdam!

KROOKS celebrates its first fifteen releases with this free compilation. A great way of getting to know the records label that started out earlier this decennium as a bold adventure by three friends to integrate electronic music culture with new ways of telling stories.

Although KROOKS magazine – with short, inspiring stories about contemporary issues with a call to action in the last sentence – and the KROOKS events – always a cool program on a special location – became popular in the city, both ended after a year of hard work and not earning enough to sustain high quality. In my opinion, KROOKS peaked too soon. The concept would flourish in the new culture of the 2020s.

The output of the record label has been stable since the early days (2015, right?), giving a voice to the emerging new kind of downtempo and lounge-like initiatives in the city.

This compilation is a good overview of the recent developments in the scene. The diversity is great, but all tracks included have that KROOKS-feel to it. It’s hard to describe what that is.

Let’s give a try: a slightly positive attitude with dark edges and a spiritual feel laced with downtempo beats and lush basses.

Something like that.

Best examples on this compilation? The moody and slow ‘Coyote de Arena’ by Absentune, the faster and playfully exciting ‘Supernova’ by SpaceAgePoetry (the beautiful spoken word in Dutch) and Dialogue (the production), the dreamy ambient pop of Arjuna Schiks’ ‘Mahesvari’, and the jazzy house of ‘Pink & Orange Sky’ by label co-founder Satori.

Leaves eleven more fine examples of the contemporary downtempo sound of Amsterdam. Although, there are also contributions from Nijmegen, Manchester, Buenos Aires and Mexico City on here.

Maybe it’s time to extend the solid musical basis of KROOKS to an event or even a publication to propagate the open and progressive nature.

Oh, wait…

Fifteen is released by KROOKS Records.

Categories
classical

I-Wolf & Eduardo Raon – The Last Humppa

So, there is only one song. No album. The song is only 2.48. That’s right: 2.48. But I feel there is something magical going on here.

Here is the famous Casino Baumgarten in Vienna. The recording studio was renovated recently and brought back in the original state it was in in 1965. It probably is the only classical recording studio in the world that is still based mainly around original ’60s tube gear. The control room is still in its original condition from the second half of that decade — down to the tiniest of details, like the old telephones! The heart of the studio is a console that was built by WSW (Wiener Schwachstromwerke).

The Palace Baumgarten, close to the famous Palace Schönbrunn, was built in 1779. In 1892, a commissioned officer’s mess (‘Casino’) was integrated into the building, and the large hall, which would later become the studio’s biggest live room, was also built in this era. The beautiful main hall serves as a venue for concerts and other cultural events.

I-Wolf and Eduardo Raon use the acoustics of the ballroom as a third instrument. The other two? Piano and harp. They are not only played in the classical sense: both musicians use the instrument as percussion, alter the sounds and distort them in every possible way. The compositions are the result of live improvisations. There is no post-production.

I-Wolf is Wolfgang Schlögl who is active in the Vienna music scene since the mid-80s. In 1996 he founded the band Sofa Surfers and was one of the important producers in the famous Vienna lounge and downtempo scene. Since a couple of years, he is more and more involved in theatre music and composing for productions.

Eduardo Raon started in the late 90s as a harpist and not only works in the field of improvised new music, but also in pop and jazz. He is the resident harpist for Slovenska Kinoteka (Slovenien Cinemateque) for whom he composes and performs soundtracks for numerous films.

This project is the first collaboration between the two. In a way, it merges the loungy jazzy feel of Schlögl influence and the more emotional and melancholic touch added by Raon. ‘The Last Humppa’ is beautiful, but way too short. The video by Video by Georg Eggenfellner and Jasmin Baumgartner adds another dimension.

For now, we have to wait for more.

Casino Baumgarten by I-Wolf & Eduardo Raon will be released by Seayou Records this fall.

Categories
electronic

Immediate Proximity – 2334

Imagine the coronavirus is here to stay and we don’t find a cure. In fact, it is mutating rapidly. We need to stay inside and keep a meter-and-a-half distance. After a few years, there are violent protests against the government enforcing the rules and we drift into a totalitarian state with killer drones roaming the streets.

I’m just imagining here, right.

Well, if we need a soundtrack for that future, 2334 will do just fine. It’s cold, metallic, dark and rough. With song titles like ‘Skynet Skanner’ and ‘Broken Ether’, it also hints to less attractive futures. When lived, because imagining those futures is part of the way we deal with uncertainty.

2334 is the debut by Immediate Proximity, the first musical collaboration between Diana Napirelly and Niels Luinenburg. We know Luinenburg as Delta Funktionen. He currently lives in Berlin and is resident at Tresor where he curates the ‘Let’s Watch UFOs’ nights. Napirelly is a dj based in Saint Petersburg. Both worked for over a year on 2334 in Luinenburg’s Berlin studio.

There are a lot of references to earlier work by Delta Funktionen, but Immediate Proximity lacks Luinenburg’s more playful, glitchy side. There is no escaping the directness of 2334. It’s a full-force kick in the stomach. Maybe that’s why the duo uses visual esthetics associated with 80s sci-fi to go with the album. It takes the edges of just a little bit.

The same playfulness is present in the way both producers describe their music: sci-fi tribalism. Hints to the core of techno culture (the tribe) and the lost future (sci-fi).

Musically, there is no escaping the machinery: this is as minimalistic as it gets. The beats punch like metal through glass, leaving no alternative than to go forward. The few tracks without beats are even more terrifying: steel-cold ambient for industrial wastelands. Opener ‘The Apocalyptic Cult’, driven by a dry sluggish beat, leads the way.

2334 forces you to submit to the cold and repetitive techno machine. In a way, it could be seen as a metaphor for the corona virus.

There is no escape, only submission.

Let’s hope 2334 will never become the soundtrack of our society. Meanwhile it is very pleasant to imagine it does.

Submit and enjoy.

2334 by Immediate Proximity is released by a Radio Matrix.