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
electronic film pop

Hunter Complex – Dead Calm and Zero Degrees

Yesterday evening Hunter Complex streamed a live show from his studio to promote his new album Dead Calm and Zero Degrees. The performance showed the difference between this fourth one and the others: Hunter Complex is in control.

That sounds cryptic, doesn’t it?

Let me explain.

Lars Meijer started out as an ambient electronic music producer. He co-founded the influential Narrominded record label in Haarlem and debuted in 2009 as Hunter Complex with the 80s oriented electropop mini-album ‘Here is the Night’. References were Gary Numan, Depeche Mode and Japan. Since then, Hunter Complex evolved in a much more sophisticated blend of different 70s and 80s styles of synthesizer-driven music, ranging from bubblegum pop to yacht rock, electro-pop to film soundtracks. Along the way, Meyer stopped using vocals.

Last years Open Sea was a blend of sultry, intelligent and bittersweet pop music. It was, as Simon Reynolds would call it, music that misremembers the 80s. A, no the best soundtrack for a rerun of Miami Vice in 2019. The album is a monument of desire for a decade in which everybody believed in a better future.

His new album Dead Calm and Zero Degrees sounds different: the longing for a past that never existed is gone. Instead, the album is a soundtrack for an alternative reality that isn’t so much rooted in the 70s, 80s or 90s. One aspect is the way Meijer uses analogue and digital synthesizers from all those decades interchangeably. But that isn’t the essence. His music could still sound aesthetically like the 80s, right?

Well, it doesn’t.

His performance last night showed a remarkable difference with previous shows. Instead of playing with classic movies from the 70s and 80s on the background, Lars played the movies on the foreground, him infiltrating in the images themselves as a spectre haunting them. Maybe you’ll think it is far fetched, but for me, that is a huge turning point in Hunter Complex’s aesthetics: instead of being haunted by the spectres of the past, Hunter Complex now haunts the spectres. That’s the control part I mentioned earlier.

Hence, there is no nostalgia anymore in this new work. Meyer has found a way to use all kinds of sounds and tropes from the past to come up with something that is 2020 at its core: a post-nostalgic ambient synthpop masterpiece.

Dead Calm and Zero Degrees by Hunter Complex is released by Burning Witches Records.

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

Categories
electronic

Burial Grid – Negative Space

Negative Space is meant to be the soundtrack to the same-titled new horror novel by B.R. Yeager, but it also serves as an uncanny musical representation of the current Covid-19 crisis. The novel also serves as a nice distraction. While we are in social isolation in The Netherlands, reading a book instead of watching a Netflix series brings more peace and produces another kind of distraction.

To be honest, I’ve only read the first few pages of Negative Space, but I like it and I am curious about the way the story will unfold. The novel follows four friends who are while struggling with a small-town suicide epidemic, drawn to WHORL, a synthetic hallucinogen that brings them into contact with ghosts. Love to finish the novel.

Meanwhile, the soundtrack by Burial Grid does a good job as ambient for my temporary home office. Although Adam Michael Kozak calls it ‘horrorsynths’, his compositions (all between three and six minutes) range from dark ambient to synth-drones with film music tropes (Jong Carpenter, anyone?). While sounding uncanny and dark, Kozak’s music also leaves a lot of room for personal interpretation. His production is light like the music is floating on air. It brings to life the ghosts that play an important part in the novel.

The open sound benefits from Kozak’s recording setup: his studio is filled with analogue en digital equipment. Besides a Kurzweil K2000, Korg MS20, Minilogue and Wavestation, Roland TR-8 and Waldorf Blofeld, he also uses field recordings to help shape his sound. It gives Negative Space that lively touch, situating you as a listener in the music: there is no escape.

Nice detail: if you buy Negative Space at Burial Grid’s Bandcamp the money will be donated to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy Covid-19 Relief Fund.

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

Negative Space, the soundtrack, is released on Burial Grid’s Bandcamp. The novel Negative Space is published by Apocalypse Party.

Categories
electronic

Sounds from the Rocking Chair

One of the coolest and most interesting labels from Amsterdam is already going strong for over a decade: Moving Furniture is a haven for qualitative experimental, mostly digital music.

The back catalogue is impressive: most known experimental composers and musicians in The Netherlands released their music on the label. Owner Sietse van Erve is a key figure in Amsterdam’s experimental electronic music scene.

It isn’t easy to keep up such an effort in the current musical landscape. A lot of labels are struggling and have a difficult time. At the end of last year, Van Erve announced a successful crowdfunding campaign. He also asked musicians for help. This compilation is the result. Twentyfour musicians contributed to Sounds from the Rocking Chair. Most of them teamed up in pairs and composed new music dedicated to the campaign.

The result is one of the coolest compilations of mostly Dutch experimental electronics. Resulting in over sixty minutes of cutting-edge ambient, noise, drones, modular synthesizers, modern classical and mixtures of all of these genres. Making Sounds from the Rocking Chair also an excellent introduction into the world of Moving Furniture.

Personal favourites? The ice-cold collaboration between Radboud Mens and BJ Nilsen, and the gloomy ‘Piano Music Redux’ by Freiband and Orphax (label owner Van Erve himself). But every track on this compilation is worth a listen.

The successful crowdfunding already led to a beautiful release by Tongues of Mount Meru. Make sure to check it out on Bandcamp.

[Move your mouse over the image to play]

Sounds from the Rocking Chair is released by Moving Furniture.

Categories
electronic

Oval – Scis

For nearly thirty years Markus Popp aka Oval is using external processes like glitch, software, hardware and AI to compose electronic music with.

Since his move from Cologne to Berlin, Popp seems to be even more open for generative influences, taking a step back from the production process. After the lovely Popp album releases in 2016 that was influenced by club music, he turned back to his software and more nerdy stuff, gave workshops in algorithmic production and did a solo exhibition in London. Now he is back with new music.

The results are a new album Scis and ep Eksploio, both filled with electronic experiments that partly go back to the open and experimental periods of Oval in the late nineties and early 2000s. From dreamy to rough, playful to rigid. It’s all on there and laced with that sound that is so typical for Oval, no other non-Oval would be able to do that. Welcome back Markus!

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

Scis by Oval is released on Thrill Jockey Records.

Categories
electronic

Vladislav Delay – Raajat

Sasu Ripatti is like King Midas: everything he touches turns into gold. A couple of years ago he left Berlin for a small island in the Baltic Sea. “There is a lot of nature here and not many people. I need that after six years of living in a city that never sleeps”, Ripatti told me by mail. He was disappointed in electric dance music becoming a product that everybody could make.

As Vladislav Delay he was so active that Ripatti got tired of house, 4/4 beats and ambient. The fresh air on Hailuoto, and his travels to the wilderness above the arctic circle and tree lines, has been good for him: after five years there will be a new album as Vladislav Delay: Rakka. The first track he shares, ‘Raajat’, is the perfect combination between sultry ambient and hectic industrial-like breakbeat stuff.

Rakka by Vladislav Delay will be released on Cosmo Rhythmatic/WARP.