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
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
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
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.

Categories
electronic

Nieuwe Electronische Waar #14

Third compilation in a row, I know. But this one (also) deserves attention.

The east of The Netherlands is an extremely fertile region if it comes to quality electronic music. One of the probably many factors of that success is the excellent infrastructure for talent development.

Seems kinda weird right, the local government subsidizing organizations to help and nourish young and talented artists? Well, it works. Then there is a tight network of clubs that program a lot of local talent. In cities like Deventer, Nijmegen and Arnhem, there is a vibrant electronic music scene.

This is already the 14th instalment of the Nieuwe Electronische Waar compilation and, like the other ones, it is released by the experimental record label Esc.rec. founded in 2004 by Harco Rutgers in Deventer. Cool label. Check it out.

To fill the compilation, there is a yearly competition. I used to be part of the selection committee way back when I still was a respected music journalist and the amount of good stuff coming in is astonishing. This edition is no exception. Eleven entries managed to earn a spot.

The range of styles on here is broad: dark trippy breaks (Mallard), headz (Fentom), atmospheric ambient electro (Presethead) and post-garage (Mingvs). As always there are some great entries and a couple that are okay and reveal how talented the artists are.

That’s the whole point. All participants are offered a diverse, broad and personal development program, supported by partners and coaches from the Dutch electronic music scene. Now, that’s something.

No wonder there is so much quality electronic music from the East of The Netherlands.

Nieuwe Electronische Waar #14 is released by Esc.rec..

Categories
ambient electronic pop

Velvet Desert Music #2

Another compilation. While I normally listen to podcasts and my own playlists when I’m on the move, being in quarantine at home makes me long for selections by others. Since I don’t like Spotify and Bandcamp still doesn’t offer a playlist option (what is wrong with you guys!?), I’ve been turning to compilations and mixes.

Now, the best compilations come from Kompakt. The record label from Cologne has some long-running series: Total, Pop, Ambient. The quality is always high. I love the label. It released some of the best electronic music tracks and my top 10 of best dance tracks ever is filled with Kompakt stuff. I wrote about them in 2013 in The Quietus (read it here).

But when they announced a new compilation series called Velvet Desert, I was sceptical. Desert? Really? I mean, I’ve lived in Cologne for a couple of years, and I still have a lot of different associations with the city. Desert isn’t one of them. Since I believed that Kompakt and Cologne are like ying and yang, I had a tough time figuring out how to fit in heat, drought and sand.

Well, I have this habit of overthinking stuff. Sorry about that.

With Velvet Desert, Kompakt wants to bring together contemporary electronic music that combines elements of rock, folk, country, surf, krautrock and psychedelics. Announcing the first edition, compiler Jörg Burger described the essence like this:

“Just think…from Sergio Leone to David Lynch, from Elvis in his deepest moments to Johnny Cash somewhere between amphetamine backlash and American Songs, from Hollywood Babylon to Hotel California, from Mulholland Drive to Paris, Texas. Served with a pinch of Tago Mago and Pink Floyd at Pompeii. Then you know exactly what Velvet Desert Music is about…”

Totally get Jörg’s idea, but I still had some concerns. That’s my flaw, sometimes I need some time to adjust to new situations.

With this second instalment, I’m ready to embrace Jörg’s concept, although I still think the music on this compilation would do a great job as the soundtrack for a space-age western. Music-wise, this collection of slow and electronic excursions into folk, krautrock, psychedelics and world music is really nice. Starting off with ‘Not So Far Away’ by Michael Mayer, a slow moody track with an incredible bass sound, it sets an atmosphere of detachment, submission and fernweh.

All of the fourteen entries are great, but the ones by Michael Mayer, Sascha Funke (dub blending with 80s guitar prog) and Lake Turner/WEM/Hand (the only faster song: sort of Neu!-like indie glam-rock) and Pluramon (what La Düsseldorf would sound like in 2020) are amazing.

Maybe the combination Kompakt, Köln and desert isn’t so strange after all.

[Move your mouse over the image and click to play]

Velvet Desert Music #2, compiled by Jörg Burger, is released by Kompakt.

Categories
ambient electronic

Reality As A Stage Set

One of the many hidden gems in the Dutch landscape of pop music: Enfant Terrible. The website of the record label states: ‘Elitist Pop Culture since 2004’.

Is the label elitist?

Well, yes. In a way. Founder and owner Martijn van Gessel knows his niche, and he knows to use words well. In interviews, he states that the music he releases has nothing to do with nostalgia or retro, although many of them have a minimalistic feel that could be associated with those terms. Of course, Van Gessel is right: using instruments that have been around for a long time, doesn’t mean making old music.

Instead, Van Gessel uses terms like (post) industrial muzak and weird pop. He manages four labels to make sure he is able to provide a broad range: Enfant Terrible for the more electro wave and synth-pop stuff, and sub-labels Gooiland Elektro (more dance-oriented stuff), Vrystaete (music related to folklore, psychedelic, lo-fi/lo-tech and experiment), and Cabaret Curioux (for the weird stuff).

In the past 16 years, Van Gessel released a lot of albums in limited editions on vinyl and some of them on cd-r. This compilation is a collection of his favourite songs he released in the past few years. The tittle Reality As A Stage Set refers to the weird current situation:

“We conceive the world around as reality… as a solid state of being… but it is not… it is a stage set… a construct… a frame… a bubble in which we float…”

The collection reflects Van Gessel’s thoughts on the corona virus being able to make cracks in our static construction of the world. Reality as a simulation that doesn’t represent the real anymore. It’s a dark, minimalistic and sometimes rough journey through eleven releases. The compilations ends with the beautiful, distant ambient elektropop of 11 RADKO.

Have a listen, download the compilation if you like, order some cool 7″, 11″ or 12″ at Enfant Terrible’s website, and visit the individual Bandcamp pages of the artists.

And, as Van Gessel puts it, take “a moment of recognition […] for contemplation… sit back… think…read… listen to music…”

Reality As A Stage Set is released by Enfant Terrible.