Shlohmo. Vacation EP

http://soundcloud.com/fofmusic/wen-uuu

Bad Vibes, Shlohmo‘s debut LP, was surely amongst one of the most underrated records of 2011. Likely to have slipped past many music fans, perhaps due to the album’s low key release and home-grown feel, this fragile work comprised of lush, organic beats and warm, thought provoking melodies. Henry Laufer, the beat-maker behind Shlohmo, dealt with some ambitious ideas whilst maintaining this home recorded sound. Tracks such as ‘Sink’ and ‘Same Time‘ highlight the nature of his work as an intelligent combination of percussive clicks, organs and manipulated guitar sounds.

Returning with this EP, Laufer has released an early stream of the track ‘wen uuu’. Whilst Laufer’s sound is clearly recognisable, a certain progression can be identified. Notably, the piece has an overall more polished sound. The vocals, organ and beat section all sound more produced than in previous works. The scrapping of background noises has also contributed to this and it seems to have definitely benefited the song. This could be evidence of a developing producer or a shift in his composing methods. Either way, Vacation makes for a very promising listen.

Officially released in February, Vacation will contain two more tracks by Laufer. Additionally, the 12” release includes remixes by Nicolas Jaar and label mate Salva.

Jacques Greene, Christian Naujoks, Robin Carolan

With this, the first post of the New Year, comes some promising release announcements. First up is news that Montreal based producer Jacques Greene has set up his very own label named Vase. To celebrate this, Greene will be releasing a four track EP featuring works with both Koreless and Ango. The track ‘Flatline’, featuring the latter of these, previewed on the Annie Mac show and reveals Greene’s soulful, R&B side. The vocals from Ango mostly contribute to this feel but Greene also tailors his beats to create this. Whilst not a ground breaking track, it does express Greene’s desire to experiment with his sound making for an interesting listen.

Pioneering German label Dial have reported that Christian Naujoks is preparing his second LP for release in February. This classically trained pianist demonstrated his innovative nature in his first release, Untitled, making use of an intriguing mix of instrumentation and electronic elements. The upcoming album named True Life/In Flames, sees Naujoks stripping things back down to the basics. Reports have professed that the nine pieces all have the piano as the central instrument, with other instruments, such as his iconic use of marimba, all coming into play at certain points. Judging on his first effort, True Life/In Flames will surely take the listener on another incredible journey.

Lastly, Tri Angle label boss Robin Carolan has recently tweeted about his solo project called Lie. Carolan plans to release the EP Ballad in March and has already generated considerable interest. What with the label comprising of such a genuinely unique set of artists, Carolan is likely to have the goods to add to this.

Ezekiel Honig. Folding In On Itself

With the accolades that Type have been getting this year, it seemed about time to delve further into their back catalogue. Obvious attention has been given to artists such as Clams Casino and Grouper, but it is this release from Ezekiel Honig that has proven to be a real gem of a find.

Entitled Folding In On Itself, this is a record which, like many under Type, reveals itself slowly and mysteriously. As Honig’s first release through Type, having previously put out records under self-owned labels Microcosm Music and Anticipate Recordings, this is a significant refinement of his sound. Themes found in his 2008 LP, Surfaces of a Broken Marching Band, are taken to new levels and shows Honig revelling in his creations.

The description on the Type website as ‘a hazy exploration of nostalgia and memory’ sums up this record quite accurately.  Honig’s clever use of field recordings and ‘found sounds’ transmit this nostalgic feel. Perhaps these recordings were taken from significant places or ones that are full of memories for the producer. Either way, the warmth communicated through the album suggests Honig is looking back fondly. This is augmented through his instrument selections which include deep organ sounds, keyboards and reverb coated guitars. Honig’s subtle techno beats further add to this sense of wistfulness.

Admittedly it takes some time to grasp the spirit of this record. The opening piece, ‘Material Wrinkle’, revolves around an almost beating organ texture, gently flowing and altering along the way. Other recorded sounds come into play and develop an organic beat nearer the end. ‘Between Bridges’ is possibly more immediate and can shift the sceptical listener. In this track, warm piano chords mingle with lush bass textures, all on top of a constant beat. Honig again makes use of his library of sounds, incorporating vocal samples, percussive elements and outdoor recordings. ‘Drafting Foresight’ has a touch of Tim Hecker about it. Here piano chords play delicately over a background scene. The difference between this and Dropped Pianos is that Honig communicates only a faint sadness, whereas Hecker instils a darkness which cannot be wholly described.

Other notable highlights of this record include the guitar melodies in ‘High & Low’, which intertwine and fade together. ‘A Closed Loop That Opens Everywhere’ showcases a most understated beat which works excellently. A similar style is found in ‘Subverting the Memory of Your Surroundings’, forming the basis for a progressive chord section. Ultimately, it is a record which will be revisited time and again, offering new discoveries with every listen.

Four Tet. Burial. Portico Quartet.

As December drags on, glimpses of what are to come in the New Year begin to filter through. First up is news of a compilation album named We Are The Works In Progress, a 14 track record in aid of Japan’s efforts to rebuild post-tsunami. This features an impressive collection of artists including Pantha Du Prince, Nosaj Thing and Four Tet, who has subsequently posted his track ‘Moma’ on Soundcloud. Sounding similar to works on There Is Love In You, ‘Moma’ slowly grips the listener as the main synthesiser melody is augmented with complimentary riffs, textures, clicks and beeps. Once in full flow, the track gathers a mysterious but focused atmosphere. The numerous subtle additions create this feel and underline the intelligence of producer Kieran Hebden. If anything, the final stages of the track, in which the percussive element is strengthened, could have been made longer for a change in mood.

More exciting news comes from a recent Rinse FM podcast which featured a brand new Burial track. The song, entitled ‘Ashtray Wasp’, is a first look at the Kindred EP which is set to drop around January next year. Whilst only a clip was played, it does highlight the beautiful piano melody and vocal samples that are apparent on this piece. Trademark ghostly sounds are ever-present, as is Burial’s crackly, chopped up beats. Similar to Street Halo, Kindred will feature two more tracks which will hopefully be revealed soon.

Also debuting on this podcast was the Portico Quartet track ‘Steepless’, off their upcoming eponymous album. Featuring singer Cornelia, the song sounds like nothing off their first two LP’s. Sparse percussion and moody piano chords combine with electronics to form a rather ambient, soulful piece. These new elements of experimentation prove the confidence and quality of Portico Quartet as a band. Roll on 2012.

Portico Quartet. Preview

Follwing the release of their memerising single ‘Ruins’, Portico Quartet have set a date for the release of their third, self-titled LP. With this news, the group has also decided to preview each track over at Real World Records. Merely from listening to these short clips one can gather the experimentation and expansion of instrumentation that has gone into the making of this record. The results sound truly exciting, so for those that can’t wait the record can be pre-ordered here.

Darkside. EP

Not content with having pushed the boundaries of electronic music already this year, Nicolas Jaar has now teamed up with guitarist Dave Harrington to create Darkside. Through this alliance, Jaar has managed to take his experimental style to new levels. With the addition of rough guitar tones and funky riffs, Jaar has unlocked a sound that is distinct from Space Is Only Noise.

Obviously elements of his LP are still present but they take on more of a foundational role here. In ‘A1’, Jaar utilises futuristic synthesiser textures and manipulated vocals, but the intertwining guitar riffs of Harrington undeniably take centre stage. The constant thud of a kick drum and rumbling bass riff offer this track rhythmic qualities not found in much of his earlier work. Jaar never loses sight though, understanding when to drop a track down, as in the case of ‘A1’ to bring the vocals to the foreground.

‘A2’ immediately introduces the muted guitar tones of Harrington over the top of a droning synthesiser. A second guitar soon emerges and combines to evoke the desert sounds of influential group Tinariwen. Once the track is in full flow, vocals drop in and out over a solid beat. As the guitars briefly exit, a simple house bass riff becomes apparent, along with vocal mumblings.

The final track, ‘A3’, follows a similar pattern, with the fusion of funereal sounding synthesisers and simple, melodic guitar riffs. Jaar crafts a complimentary beat that includes backing style vocals. After the track is stripped down to it’s foundations, haunting vocal samples engulf the piece. Sounding something like distant cries at one point, it is not until the guitar re-emerges before this chilling section comes to a close.

In Darkside, Nicolas Jaar has shown his varied sound with different instrumentation. Harrington’s neat guitar work clearly has something to do with this but Jaar provides the real intent and direction of each track. The end product is definitely worth being pursued and could become a welcome side project for Jaar in the future.

Audision. Spectral Face EP

Audision, a duo based in Hamburg consisting of Tobias Schmid and Niko Tzoukmanis, has been releasing material since 2001 via their own labels &nd and Playmade. United in their love of the Detroit techno scene, Audision creates a fusion of deep house and techno that has without doubt, influenced a number of producers after them. The fact that their only LP, Surface to Surface, has been remixed in its entirety, supports this idea. Indeed, it is through the above remix by Robag Wruhme that this EP was brought to my attention. Here the beautiful melodies crafted by Audision are maintained, with Robag laying down a solid beat that gives it a very different feel from the original.

‘Yellow Sunset’ does not tell the story of the Spectral Face EP though. The first track, ‘Miles Away’, is an immersive piece of deep techno. The foundations of this lie in the constant bass riff and electronic beat. Simple but catchy synth melodies continue to ebb and flow, whilst the textures beneath also come to light at certain points. ‘Song of the Ocean’ continues this deep style. The track opens with an aquatic sounding synthesiser and bass following the same melody. A thumping four-on-the-floor beat is built upon and similarly oceanic textures create new melodies on top. ‘Vectral Space’ changes the tone of the record and could be more comparable to any works by Four Tet. The opening distorted melody accompanied by a minimal beat, soon takes on Audision’s sound with the incorporation of a relaxed house bass. Bird noises and synth chords emerge more heavily as the track unwinds and the beat ends. ‘Yellow Sunset’ is the ideal ending track which calms the listener. It showcases the melodic abilities of Schmid and Tzoukmanis who combine flowing chord patterns and understated hooks. A similarly minimalist beat of clicks and crackles creates a great accompaniment to ensure the synthesisers gain recognition.