Categories
ambient

Europ Europ – Slow Train

In a way Slow Train is a typical Europ Europ release: there is no easy way to describe the music. Referring to older material doesn’t work.

Next year the band turns 25. Still, with every release, the Norwegian trio sounds different. This new one is probably the most accessible. The emphasis on rhythm and beats gives a sense of structure and flirts with minimal techno. It reminds me of Repeating Mistakes (2012) and Mellowharsher (2012), both blending lof-fi noise with a sort of utopian krautrock. It also has some similarities with the dancefloor-oriented Much More Ordinary 7″ (2015).

But… Okay, referring to older releases doesn’t really work.

Slow Train is a combination of the eponymous 8″ single and a handful of new songs recorded this and last year. Although the differences between the tracks are significant, there is a common factor. All eight tracks are moody, dark, slowish, experimental, exciting and playful. Especially the playfulness makes Slow Train so incredibly good.

Slow Train is rhythm and beats driven and resides in the twilight zone between industrial ambient and psychedelic drone-rock. Well, that deserves a further explanation. In the early 1990s, the term industrial ambient described a loosely connected group of artists that blended elements of dub, soundscapes and industrial music with ambient. The results were terrifyingly beautiful. Think acts like Scorn, Ice and Techno Animal. Producer Kevin Martin made a compilation series for Virgin records, but he called the music illbient, a term also used for experimental hip-hop from New York.

Some tracks on Slow Train sound like they have been made in Birmingham around that period of time. ‘Spider’ and opener ‘Desert Disco’ would fit on Scorn’s Evanescene (1994). Psychedelic drone-rock is a more complicated term. I’m referring to bands like Hair and Skin Trading Company here. Europ Europ is definitely not playing rock on Slow Train, but ‘Slow Train to Death’, ‘Hear! Hear!’ and ‘Slow Train to Drugs’ have that sluggish, dark dub structure that was so typical for the short-lived career of that band.

That’s not all. Underneath that sluggish, dark dub structure Europ Europ experiments with different layers of beats, bass lines, soundscapes, noise, rhythms and sounds. When I wrote about their MellowHarsher release back in 2012, I described the music as a blend of New Weird America, unpolished folk and industrial noise. Trying to grasp the essence, I wrote:

Europ Europ sounds ‘primal’, as if they are digging deep in the essence of Northern Europe. Industrial machines are buzzing, the occult gods from before the invasion of Christianity seem to emerge. There to haunt us. This is music for a continent adrift, a soundtrack of the demise of Europe. Beautiful, raw, grotesque, terrifying but also cathartic. Music that seeks to expel the evil spirits from capitalism by freeing the ancient demons, hidden deep within earth itself. And well, we also know: those demons are within us. Scary stuff. But oh so beautiful.

In another review (for Gonzo Circus or OOR, I can’t remember), I used the term New Weird Europe to describe their music. I guess that’s still the best I can come up with. In spite of the emphasis here on rhythm and beats, the essence still lies in the haunted character of the music.

Ancient and timeless.

It’s the musical expression of Das Abendland‘s struggle for survival. The soundtrack to go with the ritual cleansing of a romantic past that never might have existed.

A typical Europ Europ release. And I love it.

Slow Train by Europ Europ is self-released.

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 are still able to dance, watch the sun disappear, sip 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

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

Jordan GCZ – Space Songs EP

One of my favourite techno acts of the past two decades is Juju & Jordash. The two producers from Amsterdam possess the ability to make new music sound like old, and old music like new in a way that the result always has that authentic vibe. Their live-sets are amongst the best I’ve had experienced in my thirty-year life as electronic music adept/raver. Making them the poster boys od Dekmantel.

Both are also producing solo material. While Gal Aner (Juju) is working together with others a lot, Jordan Czamanski is quite busy as Jordan GCZ releasing a new 12″ at least every year. His style is in line with that of Juju & Jordash: open, lush, raw.

Jordan has the ability to strip music to its essence: a beat, a loop, a synth melody. That is the start of all his tracks. By adding new layers he is adding more soul and emotions. Perfection isn’t a goal here: his music always had this imperfect, raw vibe.

Space Song EP, released on the Future Times label based in Washington DC, is no exception. The five songs on this release embody the essence of techno: feel one with the machine. The ten minutes of ‘Half-Time’ lead the way: this is techno that is not trapped in a space-time vacuum but just is. The lushness of the beats, dominant open bassline, meandering synths: this is what techno embodies. Electronic music doesn’t get any better.

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Space Song EP by Jordan GCZ will be released by Futures Times on April 3rd.

Categories
electronic

Graham Dunning – Reach Into Time

To be honest, Reach Into Time isn’t the best representation of Graham Dunning’s musical catalogue, but it reflects his way of working and his values towards craftsmanship well.

Dunning has released a lot of electronic music on different labels and teaches experimental sound art at the Mary Ward Centre in London. He experiments with sounds, hardware, software, instruments and locations. For instance: the basis for the piece ‘Windchange’ is recorded inside the top of a 100-year-old windmill in Harplinge, Sweden, during a rainstorm and a change in the wind direction. Dunning enhanced the recording and released it earlier this year on Something About Still Trying. The title track is based on a mobile phone recording taken on a coach. Glocken – released last year, but recorded in 2018 – he worked with a turntable and modified records.

Reach Into Time is a collection of live coding performances Dunning did. Instead of using pre-set software, Dunning is coding the music bit by bit on the spot. A wonderful, creative way to stay close to the essence of rave: machine and men merging in one. Failure can be part of the process: one mistyped letter or symbol and the sequence is broken.

Without this background knowledge, Reach Into Time still sounds like a refreshing collection of old school techno, breakbeat and electro, close to the fragile sound of the best years of rave culture. The limitations of the machine are the key here, giving a much more authentic sound than Fruityloops will ever be able to deliver.

The cassette tape comes in a beautifully designed cover. There are still a few left here.

Make sure to check Dunning’s Boiler Room performance in 2016 out. It is magical and a must-watch for everybody into experimental electronic dance music. It’s over here.

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Reach Into Time by Graham Dunning is released by SØVN 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.