Laughter

the human race has one really effective weapon


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Review: Helm, “Silencer”

luke_younger_photoMy first review for Dusted Magazine is up over at the new Dusted Tumblr site. I’m very excited to be writing for them and I hope you will check the site out, read some of the other reviews, then maybe grab a copy of Helm’s Silencer. I spent a lot of time with it and it was one of my favorite records of 2013. It definitely deserves your attention:

Luke Younger takes a risk on the Silencer EP, his first ever 12-inch and the follow-up to his well-loved Impossible Symmetry full-length on Bill Kouligas’s PAN imprint. Like other noise-minded artists before him, Younger has decided to add the power of a prominent beat to his already deep mix of altered gadget noise, tape collage and electro-acoustic miscellany.

Read the rest here.

I have much more lined up for Dusted, as well as reviews of Air Supply and Photographs in the pipeline for Brainwashed.com—hoping to get 2014 off to a strong start with lots of writing.

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Review: youAND:THEMACHINES, “Behind”

In his March 3rd interview with Ibiza Voice, Martin Müller proudly lists the synths, drum machines, and effects units he used to make Behind, his first album without youANDme partner Daniel Stroeter. Among others, he names: the Waldorf Microwave 1 and Roland Alpha Juno 2, the TR-808 and TR-909, the Jomox Xbase 888, a Verona DRM, a Moogerfooger, a Sherman Filterbank, and various other resonators, compressors, and equalizers. He loves his gear, and every song on Behind begins and ends with it. Whatever the results— jet black Detroit house, dub, ambient noise, or some other variety of electronic music— Martin’s machines matter most. Everything else comes second.

Müller underlines his focus on color and texture from the get-go. After the brief, weightless wash of “Entrance,” “Perception” hits with wave after wave of staccato synthesizer sound. Over and over again, the same emphatic pulse pushes through the air, throbbing insistently for every second of the song’s almost six minutes. Riding on the crests of those electrical waves is a foamy mix of vocals, percussive accents, and other sound effects, like field recordings. Some of them pop off the rhythmic background and fizzle out, others get tucked into the mix and work away secretly beneath or within the persistence of the bass drum. But the elements are always simpatico, in some cases just a hair’s breadth removed from each other.

This is how Martin works. He hypnotizes first with hammering rhythms and catchy melodies, then woos with slick, but seriously deep textures and sound effects, wrapping them all together in a way that makes taking them apart impossible. Nearly every song proceeds that way: the beat provides the canvas and the textures provide the color, as well as the energy and intrigue. Müller pulls it all off by concentrating on the smallest units. He builds his songs thinking less about form and more about how and where sounds will mingle. All the repetitive passages, small variations, and mirrored rhythms, techno-flavored as they are, pay more homage to tone color, texture, and density than to the almighty beat.

Ambient passages help break the album up and give it some formal variety, although they feel secondary to the rhythm-centric productions. Müller definitely shines brightest when he’s messing with club-approved fare, adding depth and subtracting flash in favor of subtlety. The way he handles the vocal tracks still amazes me. The first time through those vocals were the biggest obstacle to my enjoying the record. Repeat listens quickly removed that obstacle. Thinking about it now, they are a little corny, but Martin uses them to such good effect that it doesn’t matter. By the end of the record they have disappeared into the machines that Müller so adores.

Behind is available on Ornaments
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com


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Song of the Night: Horror Inc., “The Absent”


Banjo meets techno on “The Absent,” from Horror Inc.’s new album, Briefly Eternal. You can read a brand new interview with the very properly dressed Mr. Horror, aka Marc Leclair, over at Resident Advisor. Here’s one tantalizing exchange to help whet your appetite:

You’ve mentioned in the past that hearing Philip Glass and Steve Reich was a turning point in your life. It seems like at least one lesson that you learned from Reich, in particular, is that everything can be used to create music. Sound is, in its essence, just information. Is that accurate?

It is very accurate. How you obtain results is one thing. To me, the result matters most. Reich and Glass were in a way my companions when I was a young teenager. They were in my Walkman following me everywhere. I found their music soothing. They were composing with full ensembles and yet their music sounded like one big warm pulse. Like all elements of nature unchained. When my daughter was a baby and even a young kid, I used to play Music for 18 Musicians to her every night when she was falling asleep. It’s so meditative. I also saw Glass in Montreal when I was 16, and it blew my mind. Such discipline in these gentlemen’s music, and at the same time you just feel like letting go.


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Review: Miles, “Unsecured”

Miles Whittaker can’t be stopped. As one-half of Demdike Stare, as Suum Cuique, and now as Miles, he has released a string of records that have vanished almost as soon as they have appeared. Unsecured follows his first full-length under the Miles moniker, rounding out its low-key tones and subdued colors with four coarse and heavy techno productions. Like his other records, it’s also likely to disappear soon—and for good reason.

Faint Hearted, Whittaker’s first full-length for Modern Love as Miles, was sold out and unavailable almost before it was released. On it, atmosphere and dusty effects take precedence over melody; and stiff, sputtering rhythms—that remind me of Plastikman’s “Spastik” —constitute the music’s driving force. There aren’t many hooks and there isn’t much to dance to, but the album’s quiet magic won me over with repeat plays. It was the first techno record to win me over this year.

Unsecured is the second, and it blows Faint Hearted out of the water. It leaps out of the gate with “Blatant Statement,” an explosive production propelled by sizzling percussion and a slippery 303 pattern catchier than anything on the full length. Miles beefs it up with the kind of cold synthesizer chords I’m absolute sucker for and keeps the tension running high for the next six minutes. The song doesn’t stop so much as it falls over. The melody sputters and trips, and falls head over heels.

The momentum carries into “Technocracy” —a cooler, but still forward moving dub track with an off-kilter rhythm and a hip-commanding low end— and on to the second side, where “Infinite Jest” erupts with a massive four-on-the-floor rhythm and a synth lead almost dirty enough for Pan Sonic. There is nothing subtle about it. It just pounds away for seven and a half minutes in full-on caveman glory.

“Plutocracy” winds the EP down with a darker atmosphere and some more of those cold synthesizer chords. This time they actually cool things off, as the record ends to the sound of their ominous moaning. But I’d honestly rather hear more like the first three songs. Faint Hearted is a good record for chilling out. Unsecured is great because it rocks so damn hard.

Unsecured is available on Modern Love
Review published at Brainwashed.com
Listen to the entire EP here:


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Listen: Miles, “Faint Hearted”

image via Fact Mag

image via Fact Mag

Faint Hearted, the Modern Love debut from Miles Whittaker, has been posted to Soundcloud in its entirety for absolutely free. As far as I know, Faint Hearted is sold out almost everywhere, at least in its 2LP form. Digital copies can still be purchased via Boomkat. But check out the free preview for now. I suspect more copies will be pressed.

Whittaker—aka DJ Miles, Suum Cuique, Pendle Coven, one half of Demdike Stare, et al.—has a new EP out too, also on Modern Love. Called Unsecured, it’s disappearing from shelves just as quickly as the full-length did. In the US, copies may still be available via Forced Exposure, otherwise you’ll have to search online or visit your favorite local record shop to find it, something you should probably do more often anyway.

I think the EP is amazing—even better than the full-length album, which is winning praise far and wide. This year Miles is one of the only techno-producing musicians completely winning me over. Listening now, Faint Hearted sounds better than I remember.

Check him out.